25 Apr ’14
Gene Therapy on T-Cells
What is gene therapy, you ask? What are T-cells? That will become very clear as I tell you about their promising role in medicine and in fighting cancer, specifically leukemia- a topic that everyone is familiar with. Gene therapy is the process by which DNA is used as a drug to treat a disease- it is altered to encode a functional, therapeutic gene and is used to replace a mutated gene. T-cells are white blood cells that circulate and scan our bodies for abnormalities and infections and, therefore, are crucial for immunity. They are categorized into two types: killer T-cells and helper T-cells. The killer T-cells scan cells; finding and destroying cells that are infected or cancerous. The helper T-cells, on the other hand, are responsible for arranging immune responses and play vital roles in immunity.
According to a study published in Science Translational Medicine, gene therapy presented promising results in ridding three adults of acute leukemia. The patients were diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and had worsened with chemotherapy. The researchers filtered the patients’ blood for T-cells and genetically engineered them with a virus that carried genetic material capable of recognizing CD19. CD19 is a protein expressed in B-cells and once the T-cells were transferred back into the patients, they were able to attack both cancerous and normal B-cells. Despite unpleasant and risky immune reactions, the patients went into remission.
Renier Brentjens, the lead author of the paper, told The New York Times that, “We had hoped, but couldn’t have predicted that the response would be so profound and rapid.”
I believe, as Dr. Brentjens says so himself, that the success of gene therapy in cancer is truly promising. This method will be tested in a second trial with 50 patients and can even be promising in treating other types of cancers in the future.
– Faranak Zamani
image information: Scanning electron micrograph of a human T cell (Wikipedia)
It seems that gene therapy is an incredibly promising aspect for the future. Although it is not without its risks, it has had rapid success and helped attack cancerous cells. However, there are still some side effects and risky immune reactions to gene therapy, so until time and continued experiments will tell if this is a method worth pursuing for the public people.
Sounds very promising! Will this type of treatment be more affordable than current methods? Is there still a chance for gene therapy to backfire?
Is gene therapy a controversial form of treatment due to ethical issues? I’ve heard that some medical advances, such as stem cell research, are controversial and I’m curious if gene therapy is another one of these controversial medical advances even though they are so beneficial. From what you said it sounds like gene therapy is an amazing breakthrough.
Woah this sounds pretty cool. I’d love to see where this goes in the future, especially if this makes for an affordable and accessible vaccination. Cool find!
This is super interesting. As most, I have had family members go through the devastation of fighting cancer, with positive and negative outcomes. The idea that something is out there that could be the long awaited cure is so uplifting. This seems however very expensive, and I’m curious to see how they make this more affordable and obtainable to the masses. In addition, what are the reactions exactly? Is there also a way to do a more personalized medicine approach to lessen the chance of negative reactions? Can’t wait to see where this goes in the future.