Driving Cancer Cells Away Without a CAR


The human immune system is like a home security system. It's on alert twenty-four-seven, three-sixty-five for invaders and even malignant cells. That's why scientists have harnessed our immune system, specifically T cells, to kill cancer cells, Using a technology called CAR or chimeric antigen receptor, they engineer a patient's own T cells to recognize and destroy cancer cells. But the therapy can also harm patients in some cases from the immune system becoming over-activated.

To avoid this risk, researchers have just found a way to use non-immune cells to target cancer cells in the lab, specifically human embryonic kidney cells and human mesenchymal stem cells. These engineered cells are called synthetic T cells and they're designed to recognize cancer cells by placing sensor receptors and cell-killing technology on them.

Once a cancer cell is detected, a series of cellular reactions occur within the T cell which produces a drug-activating protein. This protein is then transferred to surrounding cancer cells which are killed by the activated drug. One scientist compared it to an explosion where one single synthetic T cell destroys many cancer cells.

The therapy has two benefits. First, only cells in the immediate area are killed which limits surrounding tissue damage. Also, these synthetic T cells may induce fewer side effects since they don't over-activate the immune system.

All this sounds great but the work hasn't even moved into animal testing, much less clinical trials on human patients. So, there's a ways to go, however, it's an exciting development in cell therapy and the efforts to fight cancer.

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