T cells attacking cancer cells
T cells are comprised of two types: Helper and Killer.
Helper T-cells respond to problems in our system by rallying the cell troops around the foreign bodies.
Killer T-cells start the onslaught by injecting lethal poison on to the enemy.
When your body’s cells become damaged or infected, they alert the immune system by physically displaying signs of their internal problems on their surface. They do this with molecules called Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) proteins, which have a built-in groove that can hold a fragment of enemy protein up for inspection by passing T-cells.
T-cells wander through your body, scanning MHC molecules as they pass using their own specialist surface molecules, known as a T-cell receptor. Each of your millions of different T-cells have a slightly different T-cell receptor, and will only start to activate if it detects its exact foe. Before it can attack, the T-cell must wait for more orders from other immune cells – this helps prevent friendly fire. But once it receives these orders, it arms its weapons, and then starts to multiply furiously, producing an army of clones.
However, there lies a catch, while T cells can destroy foreign bodies they cannot identify them which is where Immune engineering comes into the scene. Cancer cells are master at fooling the T-cells, however, they are not able to withhold their identity against B-cells. Cellectis, a biotechnology company devised a gene editing method called TALENS (Transcription activator-like effector nucleases), a way of making cuts and fixes to DNA in living cells. The company began developing the treatment in 2011 after a group of doctors reported a way of gaining control over killer T-cells,
The treatment was based on the concept of combining the identifying power of B-cells with the killing power of T-cells thus creating Super T cells.
These super T cells are made using healthy patients’ blood, genetically modified and then injected back to the patient’s body to seek out cancer cells. Targeting the right cells forms an important part of this treatment as it is very essential for the super T cells to identify the right cells and then attack them with precision.
These treatments are based on blood cancers developing from B-cells hence the T cells while destroying the cancer cells destroy the B-cells as well in the process. Patients can survive without B-cells however they need to be on medication throughout their life.
Hence, there still is a large scope of improvement, apart from blood cancer these treatments can be modified for organ specific cancer as well. However, this has paved the way for a light of hope for those who are unfortunate to get cancers such as Leukaemia. This research proves how science can be used effectively to save human life rather than just in making weapons of mass destruction.We shall soon be seeing such things happen more often in the near future.
Note: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DOT as a whole.