Nov. 16 (UPI) — Researchers have devised a new gene-editing immunotherapy to kill once fatal cancers, according to a study.

The new immunotherapy, outlined in the November issue of Cell, called SLICE that allows scientists to quickly analyze the function of all genes within “primary” immune cells taken directly from patients.

This technology could alter immune cells to fight cancer and many other diseases, researchers say.

“T cells seem to become ‘suppressed’ in tumor microenvironments,” Dr. Julia Carnevale, a Damon Runyon Cancer Foundation fellow and co-first author of the new study, said in a press release. “We wanted to know if SLICE could help us find a way to help T cells overcome this suppression.”

In theory, SLICE works from a CRISPR-based system and uses electroporation to shock cells into molecules. It could spot certain genomes within a cancer cell, seize on them, then reprogram the immune cells to ramp up their therapeutic ability to fight the cancer.

To test their theory, the researchers used SLICE to identify genes that boost T cell replication and other genes able to tamp it down. Some of those genes were old discoveries but others brand new, showing that SLICE could uncover important regulators that replicated cells.

SLICE could also examine parts of the genome don’t show protein code — other RNA interference only interrogated coding regions of the genome.

“SLICE functions as a flexible platform that allows scientists to model the interaction between immune cells and the tumor microenvironment. We’ve shown that SLICE can help researchers identify genes that allow immune cells to escape the immunosuppressive forces they encounter in these microenvironments,” said Alan Ashworth, the E. Dixon Heise Distinguished Professor in Oncology at UCSF and co-senior author of the new study.

“Given the flexibility of this approach,” Marson said, “SLICE may one day help scientists to create personalized immune cells with novel disease-fighting properties.”



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