Training Immune Cells To Combat Disease

Immunology: Researchers trap immune cells in droplets of water in oil in hopes of reprogramming them

March 05, 2013

C&EN press release

Some biologists would like to train patients’ own immune systems to treat diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders. They envision programming immune cells to destroy tumor cells or to stop immune system attacks on 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 (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja311588c).

In our immune systems, T cells play many key roles in preventing disease. They attack invaders such as viruses, help hold the immune system’s memory of past infections, and even prevent other immune cells from attacking the body’s own tissue. Joachim P. Spatz and Ilia Platzman, researchers at Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, in Stuttgart, Germany, study how T cells mature and get trained in a particular task.

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