Friday, 4 January 2013

Japanese researchers create anti-cancer T-Cells from induced pluripotent stem cells

A few days ago Japanese researchers, led by Hiroshi Kawamoto, of the RIKEN Research Centre announced that they managed to successfully create killer T lymphocyte cells, a type of cell that attacks and destroys cancer cells, from iPSC cells (induced pluripotent stem cells). To create these IPSCs they first isolated and transfected T lymphocytes (specialised in killing a certain type of cancer) and reprogrammed them so that they transform into induced pluripotent stem cells. These iPSCs were cultured and produced even more cancer-specific T lymphocytes. The team's findings were published on the online Cell Stem Cell journal.

Previous studies have shown that cancer-specific killer T lymphocytes grown in a lab, can't be effectively used as a cancer treatment. This is due to the fact that their life span is very short. To address this problem, the Japanese team reprogrammed human killer T lymphocytes into iPS and studied their differentiation process.

Image of a human T lymphocyte
Human T Lymphocyte

The original T lymphocytes attacked a specific type of skin cancer (the cells were taken from a patient with malignant melanoma). The researchers transfected them using the traditional "Yamanaka Factors", including Oct3/4, Sox2 and c-Myc. You can read more about this method of transfecting somatic stem cells at our induced pluripotent stem cells article. In short, these factors induce already specialised somatic cells to a stem cell-like state with pluripotent abilities.

The japanese team then cultured the IPSCs that were created and induced them to become killer T lymphocytes again and again.The resulting cells had the exact same anti-cancer abilities, that the original lymphocytes had.

Regarding their findings, Hiroshi Kawama made the following statement:

“We have succeeded in the expansion of antigen-specific T cells by making iPS cells and differentiating them back into functional T cells. The next step will be to test whether these T cells can selectively kill tumor cells but not other cells in the body. If they do, these cells might be directly injected to patients for therapy. This could be realized in the not-so-distant future.” 

The RIKEN center is a large research institute in Japan that was founded in 1917. More than 3000 scientists work on its seven campuses across Japan, the main one in Wako, just outside Tokyo

Logo of the RIKEN Center

Raul Vizcardo, Kyoko Masuda, Daisuke Yamada, Tomokatsu Ikawa, Kanako Shimizu, Shin-ichiro Fujii, Haruhiko Koseki, Hiroshi Kawamoto "Regeneration of human tumor antigen-specific T cells from iPS cells derived from mature CD8+ T cells." Cell Stem Cell, 2013

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