This ‘genetic switch’ could help to fight cancer


Date: 27.04.2018

Scientists have devised a remote-control method that could one day be used to make the immune system mount a powerful anti-cancer attack inside tumors.

The technique was developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta and uses engineered genes, laser technology, and gold nanoparticles to get T cells inserted into tumors to vastly increase production of specific proteins.

T cells are a type of white blood cell that have an inbuilt ability to detect and kill cancer cells, which, unfortunately, some tumors can switch off.

However, the team's new method offers a way to switch anti-cancer ability in T cells back on again.

A paper that is now published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology describes how the approach triggered "gene expression at specific sites to levels greater than 200-fold" inside tumors implanted in mice.

The team now plans to develop the method to increase production of proteins that help immune cells to target and kill cancer cells. They hope that one day it will serve as a "precision tool" for fighting cancer.

"In upcoming experiments," says principal investigator Gabriel A. Kwong, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech, "we are implementing this approach to treat aggressive tumors and establish cancer-fighting effectiveness."

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