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The idea of genetically modifying a patient's own immune cells and deploying them against infections and tumors has been around since the 1980s. But to this day modified T cells are still not as effective as natural T cells and have been only been of limited clinical value. Using the new CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool, a team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now engineered T cells that are very similar to physiological immune cells.
There are two forms of T cell therapy: either a recipient receives cells from a donor, or the recipient's own T cells are removed, genetically reprogrammed in a laboratory and unleashed against an infection or tumor in the body. While the first method has proven to be successful in clinical models, reprogramming T cells is still beset with problems.
Team - Professor - Dirk - Busch - Director
The team led by Professor Dirk Busch, Director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene at the TUM, has generated modified T cells for the first time that are very similar to their natural counterparts and could solve some of those problems. To do so, they utilized the new CRISPR-Cas9 gene scissors, which can be used to snip out and replace targeted segments of the genome.
Both the conventional methods and the new method target the key homing instrument of T cells, known as the T cell receptor. The receptor, residing on the cell's surface, recognizes specific antigens associated with pathogens or tumor cells, which the T cell is then able to attack. Each receptor is made up of two molecular chains that are linked together. The genetic information for the chains can be genetically modified to produce new receptors that are able to recognize any desired antigen. In this way, it...
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