Generating large numbers of universal immune cells could transform cancer immunotherapy

May 16, 2018, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
Generating large numbers of universal immune cells could transform cancer immunotherapy
A novel method to generate natural killer cells from peripheral blood cell-derived stem cells may transform immunotherapies for different cancers. Credit: A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology 

A scalable method of generating universal 'off-the-shelf' natural killer (NK) cells for cancer immunotherapies has been devised by A*STAR researchers. Their technique could ensure that future NK cell-based cancer treatments can be used for most patients.

NK cells are a group of small from the innate immune system that help kill virus-infected cells and malignant cancer cells. Scientists can harvest NK cells and use them to directly target cancer cells. However, existing techniques generate limited numbers of NK cells from selected donors that are suitable for specific patients only.

"Current donor-dependent NK cell harvesting methods carry the risk of graft-versus-host disease, because traces of other cells and molecules from donors that are mixed in with the NK cells can react to patients' . This can limit the use of therapies considerably," says Shu Wang at the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, who led the study. "We wanted to devise a new method of generating large numbers of pure, universally-suitable NK cells that could widen the use of such immunotherapies."

The team needed a readily available, sustainable and non-controversial source of stem cells from which they could derive massive numbers of NK cells. So they used to generate induced human pluripotent , iPSCs, which can differentiate into every type of cell in the body, including NK cells. This is the first time peripheral blood cell-derived iPSCs have been used to generate NK cells.

Wang's team designed a new protocol to derive NK cells from iPSCs, with a focus on robustness and scalability. They co-cultured iPSCs with bone marrow connective tissue cells—these activate the signaling processes needed for cell differentiation and commitment to a specific cell type, which resulted in large yields of NK cells.

"An unexpected bonus of our protocol was that most derived NK cells were free of a particular group of inhibitory receptor proteins that can limit universal application in patients," says Jieming Zeng, the first author of the study. "This means that we may now have an invaluable cell source for a wider group of patients."

Scaling up the manufacture of NK cells will require considerable further investment, particularly with its reliance on the connective tissue cell lines that may prove expensive to provide in the form of cell banks. The team will continue to streamline their technique, and believe the breakthrough will inform the development of universal 'off-the-shelf' cancer treatments.

Explore further: Stem cells from adults function just as well as those from embryos

More information: Jieming Zeng et al. Generation of "Off-the-Shelf" Natural Killer Cells from Peripheral Blood Cell-Derived Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, Stem Cell Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2017.10.020

Related Stories

Stem cells from adults function just as well as those from embryos

April 24, 2018
Donor age does not appear to influence the functionality of stem cells derived from adult body tissues, concludes a new review. The analysis of research on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) finds that not only are typical ...

Stem cell vaccine immunizes lab mice against multiple cancers

February 15, 2018
Stanford University researchers report that injecting mice with inactivated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) launched a strong immune response against breast, lung, and skin cancers. The vaccine also prevented relapses ...

Recommended for you

Three scientists share $500,000 prize for work on cancer therapy

August 15, 2018
Tumors once considered untreatable have disappeared and people previously given months to live are surviving for decades thanks to new therapies emerging from the work of three scientists chosen to receive a $500,000 medical ...

RUNX proteins act as regulators in DNA repair, study finds

August 15, 2018
A study by researchers from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) at the National University of Singapore has revealed that RUNX proteins are integral to efficient DNA repair via the Fanconi Anemia (FA) ...

Chemicals found in vegetables prevent colon cancer in mice

August 14, 2018
Chemicals produced by vegetables such as kale, cabbage and broccoli could help to maintain a healthy gut and prevent colon cancer, a new study from the Francis Crick Institute shows.

Researchers artificially generate immune cells integral to creating cancer vaccines

August 14, 2018
For the first time, Mount Sinai researchers have identified a way to make large numbers of immune cells that can help prevent cancer reoccurrence, according to a study published in August in Cell Reports.

Stress hormone is key factor in failure of immune system to prevent leukemia

August 14, 2018
The human stress hormone cortisol has been identified by scientists at the University of Kent as a key factor when the immune system fails to prevent leukemia taking hold.

Medically underserved women in the Southeast rarely receive BRCA tests

August 14, 2018
Medically underserved women in the Southeast diagnosed with breast cancer or ovarian cancer missed out on genetic testing that could have helped them and their relatives make important decisions about their health, according ...

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.