In a paper published by a team from University of California, Los Angeles in Nature Methods, the team has shown that they have created an artificial thymus, which produces t-cells that are specifically programmed to target cancerous cells, offering better medicare for patients. Thymus is a small organ located in front of your heart, which uses the blood stem cells to produce t-cells or t-leucocytes, which are white blood cells that attack and destroy defective cells and hence play a very important role in the functioning of our immune system. But the drawback is, as we age, the efficiency of the thymus degrades, and there are germs which are resistant to the present t-cells in our body. T-cells produced by the thymus are guided by special molecules called receptors, which help them locate the defective cells, like those of cancer, and destroy them.
To fight the growing cancer cases and counter the effect of reduced efficiency of thymus, the UCLA team has created an artificial thymus, which produces t-cells that have receptors which are specific for fighting cancer, and this assistance can increase our immune system. In an already existent technology, called adoptive T-cells immunotherapy, the t-cells from the patient are taken out, given a receptor artificially and then re-introduced in the body, but this process is time-consuming and costly. In the improved method we are discussing here, the blood stem cells are regrown into an artificial thymus, which can be implanted in the patient when he/she requires. The crucial part here is that these cells can be rejected by the body if all other receptors, except for the cancer-specific receptors are not deactivated.
In the tests performed in the lab, no such rejection has been observed, and the team is positive that the tests on human victims will also be a success. The adoptive t-cells immunotherapy also relies on the fact that the patient should have enough t-cells in the first place, no such constraint is required in creation of the artificial thymus.
“We know that the key to creating a consistent and safe supply of cancer-fighting T-cells would be to control the process in a way that deactivates all T-cell receptors in the transplanted cells, except for the cancer-fighting receptors,” -Gay Crooks
The process can be easily repeated by other medical researchers, and the team has an eye on the further advancements in the study. The best part is that these artificial t-cells attack only the cancer cells and leaves the healthy cells alone. Artificial organs have become one of the biggest life savers for us, extending our life expectancy to fighting birth defects. With the ability to replace faulty organs, our immune system retains its efficiency, and can in certain cases also improve it with the help of artificial assistance.
In another study by the Tel Aviv University of Israel, published in Oncotarget, the research team found out a method to make cancer cells kill themselves. These suicidal cancer cells, are introduced with a compound derivative of the chemical phenanthridine(pictured below), which interferes with the working of spindle, stopping the chromosomes from dividing and hence the cancer cell from replicating. Spindle is the part of the cell that helps the chromosomes in splitting in a stage of cell division called mitosis(pictured above). Since cancer is just mitosis gone out of control, once mitosis is prevented, the defective cells cannot replicate and spread.
This was carried out by introducing human cancer cells in mice, and then injecting compounds that are derivatives of phenanthridine to stop mitosis of the cells. The team has successfully applied the method to various cancer tissues like those of lung, ovary, skin, colon, breasts, blood and brain. When this method was carried out on triple negative breast cancer cells, which are known to have avoided any previous methods, the team succeeded in killing them.
In a similar study last year, Georgia State University researchers identified a protein called ProAgio that causes cell death by initiating a process called apoptosis, in which old and defective cells are removed from the body. Cancerous cells are known to avoid this process. Previous studies also showed that stopping the supply of glucose to the cells and blocking the protein MCL1, which helps the cells to avoid apoptosis, also initiates suicides in these cells.
Cancer cases are growing and sadly becoming a common sight in today’s world. We all know at least one person who is or has been a victim. Cancer is of different kinds, and they require different treatments, which is why it is difficult to find a cure to this disease. The fact that there is not one kind of cancer, and thus no one single medicine that could kill them all, increases the difficulty. This is the reason most conspiracy theorists fail, they don’t understand the basic thing about cancer- IT IS NOT JUST ONE DISEASE BUT MANY, AND REQUIRES DIFFERENT CURES MOSTLY. But with increasing knowledge of the working of the cells, both healthy and cancerous, has provided us with valuable information to creating better medical care for the patients, and increasing the chances of surviving and hopefully removing the cancer completely. The above methods have been tried on cancer cells in a petri dish, or a host like a mouse, and are still to be tested on living human patients, so they are in there beginning stages, there is still a way to go. If you know anyone who is fighting against cancer, make them feel strong, hopefully we have a brighter future against cancer. Stay Strong, Happy Reading!
-The Cosmogamic Person