Slovenian researchers make breakthrough in cell therapy
The modified cells are administered in porous capsules that allow the cells to receive nourishment from the patient but protect them from the patient's immune system, which means the same type of cells can be used for all patients.
Administered in advance, the cells activate themselves later when they detect an inflammation, but they can also be triggered externally using chemical signals.
The system was tested on cell cultures, as well as in pre-clinical trials on an animal model of inflammatory bowel disease, where capsules injected in the abdomen prevented intestinal damage.
According to project leader Roman Jerala, this is a demonstration of how advanced approaches of synthetic biology can be used in medicine, although many improvements will still be needed before the system can actually be used for treatment.
The paper on the four-year research by Anže Smole, Duško Lainšček, Urban Bezeljak, Simon Horvat and Jerala was published in the January issue of the journal Molecular Therapy.
Jerala said the biggest credit for the achievement goes to Smole, the institutes' former researcher, who is currently conducting post-doctoral research of cancer immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Although stem cell therapy has been a popular topic among scientists, the biggest successes in cell therapy in the US are being achieved in cancer immunotherapy using modified cells of patients' immune systems.
Especially chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T) have proven to be exceptionally successful in treating cancer types that are generally unresponsive to treatment, the Chemistry Institute has said.