Scientists have Reprogrammed Human Skin Cells in Immune Cells to Fight Cancer



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Cell Therapy

Without T cells, the cells responsible for fighting foreign cells, we humans are quite vulnerable to diseases. The T cells themselves, however, rely on sentinels of the immune system, dendritic cells, to look for and signal anything suspicious.

In cancer treatments such as immunotherapy, this process is manipulated so that our own bodies attack the cancer cells. Now, for the first time, a team of researchers at the University of Lund in Sweden has developed a process to convert human skin cells into immune system sentinels, which could lead to safer immunotherapy treatment options.

The problem with bodies

Fighting cancer with one's own body's immune system is no easy task. Sometimes cancer can cause dendritic cells to behave in unusual ways and do not function properly. There is also a chance for your body to reject the treatment all together. By creating immunological cells from the patient's own body, the chance of rejection is drastically reduced.

This process, called direct reprogramming, was recently published in the journal Scientific Immunology and is not only effective, but fast as well. "From a section of tissue removed from the skin, we can grow millions of cells and reprogram them to dendritic cells in a process that takes only nine days," said Filipe Pereira, leader of the research team that led the study.

Not only are reprogrammed cells capable of alerting the body's immune system to cancer cells, they can also be guided by researchers to seek specific targets before they are introduced into the body.

Old Cell, New Tricks

Cellular immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment option in the fight against cancer. A better understanding of the complexities of how the immune system works can help us maintain health longer. Research conducted by Pereira and colleagues will help improve treatment options and open new avenues of research in immunotherapy.

CONSULT MORE INFORMATION: A code to reprogram immune sentries [EurekAlert]

More about immunotherapy: Cancer "Vaccine" that erases tumors ready for human experimentation

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