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Medicine Biotech Science

Programming Immune Cells To Treat Disease 32

MTorrice writes "Some biologists would like to train patients' own immune systems to treat diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders. They envision isolating a person's immune cells and then programming the cells to destroy tumors or to stop other parts of the immune system from attacking healthy tissue. Now a team of German researchers reports a method that traps immune cells in microscopic water droplets and exposes the cells to chemical signals that could teach them the difference between friend and foe (abstract). The droplets mimic the cellular environments in which immune cells typically trade information about what to attack."
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Programming Immune Cells To Treat Disease

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  • by 2.7182 ( 819680 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:16PM (#43087711)
    But do they discuss/remember Jesse Gelsinger?
  • by locopuyo ( 1433631 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:24PM (#43087779) Homepage
    What could possibly go wrong?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      rm -rf / to yourself

      • As someone whose immune system is already doing this (Crohn's Disease), I welcome this research, it'd be awesome if they could turn this part of the immune response off.
    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )
      As long as they don't program them in PHP or PERL, everything should be fine.


    • Depending on the type of cancer this therapeutic approach is attempted on, the patient may experience the same symptoms as either a severe but localized or broad, systemic infection. Even if you are going to train the immune system to go after cancerous tumor cells, it will treat the target in the same way (using the same biochemical weapons) as a dangerous pathogen. History [wikipedia.org] has taught us that the immune response itself [wikipedia.org] can be more destructive than what triggered that response in the first place. If this
    • There's been a few cases of people being completely cured of cancer by programming their immune system. Of course, there have also been a few catastrophes, such as when the researchers didn't realize the same protein the cancer exhibited also appeared in another area of the body, so the immune system naturally attacked both good and bad. Patient dies.

    • What could possibly go wrong?

      People dying from diseases that their immune systems could easily handle if properly trained to do so?

  • The programmer isn't a brogrammer. o_O

  • Immunology works... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:16PM (#43088243)

    I'm living proof that one's own cells can be used to fight diseases like, in my case, stage IV melanoma.

    A three centimeter melanoma tumor was resected from near my jaw last summer at NIH. It was sliced and diced and had the white blood cells within it (my natural white blood cells) that were trying to attack the cancerous melanoma cells in the tumor removed and put in a handful of petri dishes with some tumor tissue, bathed in a cytokine called IL-2. The batches that showed the best cellular expansion and tumor tissue attacking effect were then grown to a quantity of 130 billion white blood cells.

    Once my immune system was basically knocked out with strong chemotherapy (cytoxan and fluderabine) followed by total body irradiation (TBI), I was given my tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) back for further expansion in my body. Coupled with several nasty doses of IL-2 (which does bad things to you), the new white blood cells (and some CD34+ stem cells that were taken out before the treatment) were given back to me to reboot my immune system.

    After a couple weeks in the hospital, my blood counts returned to normal levels and I returned home. Since that time, my tumors have been tracked and are declared to be "almost gone" by the doctors (that is, smaller than the resolution capabilities of CT scanning technology, or 1 mm). In fact, at this point, the doctors aren't sure whether it's still tumor tissue or scar tissue. Eight months post-treatment and my disease appears to be, for all intents and purposes, gone. Provided my supercharged, melanoma-fighting immune system persists, I may have a natural immunity to the melanoma that inflicted me.

    As this is a systemic and focused treatment, this process appears to work on patients independently of how advanced their disease has progressed. I've met patients who had tumors in their internal organs and even brain involvement for whom this has worked. I swear I wouldn't be writing this post today without the life-saving treatment that I received last fall. As with anything cancer-related, my state could change at any time, but, for me, "so far, so good" is good enough for me right here and now.

    I chose to participate in this particular trial because of the personal nature of the procedure: using my own immune system to attack my own disease.

    One more thing: Although some of the trials at NIH actually do genetic engineering on the white blood cells, attempting to improve their expansion behavior and activation, my specific trial did not.

    • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:06AM (#43088667) Homepage Journal

      How dare you come in with an example of such a treatment actually working? Don't you know that this line of research is an offense to God and man which will inevitably lead to a hellish Gattasteinian future in which we're all mutant slaves of the Big Science / Big Pharma Conspiracy? Or something like that.

      Seriously, congratulations, and speaking as a researcher, thank you.

    • Many thanks from another member of the cancer community. So glad this has shown such tremendous results for you. Hope we can some day understand this better and help more people! All the best wishes for continued health! -- Paul
    • Detroit, the near future. Anonymous Coward and his doctors fight to rid his decaying body of the disease element which infests it. Mortally ridden with stage IV melanoma, Anonymous Coward is outfitted by NIH with cancer-proof tumor infiltrating lymphocytes and supercharged immuno-capabilities. Beyond the resolution of current CT scanning technology, he has become.......

    • Coupled with several nasty doses of IL-2 (which does bad things to you)

      No doubt!

      That's scary stuff!!! How did they avoid you going into Septic Shock after INTENTIONALLY INJECTING Interleukin-2. especially after your immune system was "rebooted"?

      But however they did it, congrats!

  • Re-training your immune system not to overreact to the environment started in the early 70s in the UK and is know as EPD and is still practiced. It was refined for North America usage due to the FDA laws and is known here as LDA (http://www.drshrader.com/lda_therapy.htm). It's a different method than above to teach your immune cells the difference between friend and foe, but with the same goal/results in mind.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker