JUN 09, 2020 6:37 AM PDT

Peacekeeping Engineered T Cells Restore the Balance in Diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

For patients with type 1 diabetes, hope is around the corner with a new experimental therapy that uses genetically modified immune cells. Scientists at the Seattle Children's Research Institute's Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies have been granted a multi-million dollar research grant to accelerate the therapy’s path to the clinic.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to effectively regulate the body’s blood sugar levels. This is a result of a subset of white blood cells, called effector T cells, infiltrating the pancreas and destroying insulin-producing islet cells.

Without sufficient insulin, patients often feel tired, thirsty, or hungry, and lose weight despite eating normally. By the time type 1 diabetes is diagnosed, around 80 to 90 percent of the islet cells are permanently damaged.

In healthy individuals, effector T cells are kept in check by regulatory T cells, or T regs. Regulatory T cells tell the effector T cells to calm down and limit damage to tissues like the pancreas, says David Rawlings, the senior investigator leading the research.

 

 

In research published in Science Translational Medicine, Rawlings' team created a novel way of restoring the balance between T cell effectors and regulators. Here, the patient's own T cells are isolated from a blood sample and genetically modified to equip them with T reg functionality. They are then infused back into the patient where they can stop hyperactive effectors in the pancreas and shield against further damage to the pancreas.

The research team identified a specific gene that when turned on, gave T cells the specialized abilities of T regs. This genetic switch, FOXP3, was shown to make edited T cells behave very similarly to T regs in experiments using both animal models and tissue culture.

"This data offers the first proof that engineering by way of turning on FOXP3 is sufficient to make a functional Treg-like cell product," said Rawlings, adding that this landmark research finding is directly translatable to clinical use.

Rawlings and colleagues believe that this novel technology has significant advantages over current clinical interventions for type 1 diabetes and even other T reg therapies in development. Their next steps are focused on further validating the therapy and translating the research into protocols for clinical use.

"I think some in the field questioned whether our approach would actually work, and so it's gratifying to not only have proof that it works but to continue to generate data showing just how remarkably well it works."

 

Sources: Medical Xpress, Science Translational Medicine.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
JUN 28, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Bringing Light to Extracellular Vesicles
JUN 28, 2021
Bringing Light to Extracellular Vesicles
Though originally thought of as strictly a waste disposal system, extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been shown to have m ...
AUG 26, 2021
Coronavirus
Researchers View COVID-19 Progression in a Live Animal Model
AUG 26, 2021
Researchers View COVID-19 Progression in a Live Animal Model
Scientists have used a mouse model to visualize the progression of a SARS-CoV-2 infection as it led to sometimes fatal c ...
SEP 02, 2021
Immunology
Hobit Activates Cancer-Killing Immune Cells
SEP 02, 2021
Hobit Activates Cancer-Killing Immune Cells
Innate lymphoid cells, or ILCs, are specialized immune cells that are increasingly entering the research spotlight. Thes ...
SEP 06, 2021
Microbiology
Imbokodo Trial Shows HIV Vaccine Candidate Isn't Effective Enough
SEP 06, 2021
Imbokodo Trial Shows HIV Vaccine Candidate Isn't Effective Enough
HIV vaccines have remained elusive in part because the virus has a powerful ability to mutate, and there are so many str ...
SEP 09, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Can vaccines help prevent and treat opioid addiction?
SEP 09, 2021
Can vaccines help prevent and treat opioid addiction?
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 136 people die from an opioid overdose every ...
SEP 14, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
A novel drug that targets the removal of pathogenic antibodies in myasthenia gravis
SEP 14, 2021
A novel drug that targets the removal of pathogenic antibodies in myasthenia gravis
Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by muscle weakness and fatigue. The disorder leads to a ...
Loading Comments...