Scientists at Yale University have developed a novel cancer treatment that rapidly grows and enhances a patient’s immune cells outside the body using carbon nanotube-polymer composites
The scientists used bundled carbon nanotubes to incubate a type of white blood cell that is important to immune system functions. According to the researchers, the topography of the nanotubes enhances interactions between cells and long-term cultures, providing a fast and effective stimulation of the cytotoxic T cells that are important for eradicating cancer.
The team at Yale modified the nanotubes by chemically binding them to polymer nanoparticles that held a particular cell signaling protein that encourages T cell growth and proliferation. In order to mimic the body’s methods for stimulating cytotoxic T cell proliferation, the scientists seeded the surfaces of the carbon nanotubes with molecules that signaled which of the patient’s cells were foreign or toxic and should be attacked.
Over the course of 14 days, the number of T cells cultured on the composite nanosystem expanded by a factor of 200, Tarek Fahmy, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and the study’s principal investigator said;
In repressing the body’s immune response, tumours are like a castle with a moat around it, our method recruits significantly more cells to the battle and arms them to become super-killers.
According to Fahmy, previous procedures for boosting antigen-specific T cells required exposing the patient’s harvested immune cells to other cells that stimulate activation and proliferation, a costly procedure that risks an adverse reaction to foreign cells. The Yale team’s use of magnetic CNT-polymer composites eliminates that risk by using simple, inexpensive magnets to separate the composites from the T cells prior to injection.
Modulatory nanotechnologies can present unique opportunities for promising new therapies such as T cell immunotherapy, engineers are progressing toward the design of the next generations of nanomaterials, allowing for further breakthrough in many fields, including cancer research.