CAR T cells more powerful when built with CRISPR, researchers find

February 22, 2017

Researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) have harnessed the power of CRISPR/Cas9 to create more-potent chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells that enhance tumor rejection in mice. The unexpected findings, published in Nature on February 22, uncover facets of CAR immunobiology and underscore the potential of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to advance immunotherapies for cancer.

CRISPR is a genome-editing tool that enables scientists to cut and manipulate a cell's DNA with high precision. In the Nature paper, MSK investigators show that CRISPR technology can deliver the CAR gene to a very specific location in the genome of the T cell. This precise approach creates CAR T with more stamina—they can kill for longer because they are less prone to becoming exhausted. This could eventually lead to safer, more effective use of this powerful form of immunotherapy in patients.

"Cancer cells are relentless in their attempt to evade treatment, so we need CAR T cells that can match and outlast them," explained Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD, senior author on the Nature paper and Director of the Center for Cell Engineering and the Gene Transfer and Gene Expression Laboratory at MSK. "This new discovery shows that we may be able to harness the power of genome editing to give these 'living therapies' a built-in boost. We are eager to continue exploring how genome-editing technology could give us the next generation of CAR T cell therapy."

Some of the first clinical trials using CRISPR technology are currently in the planning stages. Dr. Sadelain and his team aim to eventually explore the safety and efficacy of these CRISPR-built CAR T cells in a trial. Currently, CAR T cells are usually made using a retroviral or lentiviral technology to deliver the CAR gene into the T cells. This delivery method results in the CAR gene being inserted at random into the genome of the recipient cells, which can result in unwanted genetic side effects.

Explore further: Tuberculosis-resistant cows developed for the first time using CRISPR technology

More information: Justin Eyquem et al, Targeting a CAR to the TRAC locus with CRISPR/Cas9 enhances tumour rejection, Nature (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nature21405

Related Stories

Tuberculosis-resistant cows developed for the first time using CRISPR technology

January 31, 2017
CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology has been used for the first time to successfully produce live cows with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis, reports new research published in the open access journal Genome Biology.

Watching gene editing at work to develop precision therapies

January 24, 2017
University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have developed methods to observe gene editing in action, and they're putting those capabilities to work to improve genetic engineering techniques.

Genome surgery with CRISPR-Cas9 to prevent blindness

February 16, 2017
It is estimated that almost one in every ten people over 65 has some signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and its prevalence is likely to increase as a consequence of the aging population. AMD is a form of blindness, ...

Recommended for you

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.