Even with everyday improving technologies in med-tech, cancer still remains a major disease. This might be about to change as researchers have ‘reprogrammed’ human skin cells into immune cells to fight cancer.
For the first time, a research team from Lund University has developed a process for reprogramming and converting human skin cells into immune cells called dendritic cells that defend against germs and could lead to safer cancer treatments (like immunotherapy) options.
Fighting off cancer with body’s own immune cells is a very difficult task to do with chances of the body rejecting the treatment all together. With the help of these reprogrammed and converted immune cells from a patient’s own body, the chances of rejected are immensely reduced, reported Futurism.
The process used for the conversion was called direct reprogramming. The process, as described in the journal Science Immunology, is not only effective, but also very fast. The lead researcher Filipe Pereira said, “From a tissue section taken from the skin, we can cultivate millions of cells and reprogram them to dendritic cells in a process that takes only nine days.”
Along with alerting the body’s immune system to cancerous cells, the reprogrammed cells can also be guided by researchers for seeking out particular targets before they are even introduced into the body.
Moreover, this research will efficiently help improve the treatment options for cancer and also open up new avenues of immunotherapy research. “Our study has shown that reprogrammed cells have the ability to effectively capture and present antigens to killer cells in the same way as ‘natural’ dendritic cells,” said Pereira.
“This represents an excellent opportunity to merge the fields of cellular reprogramming and cancer immunotherapy. In the longer term we plan to examine the process of reprogramming dendritic cells to develop gene therapy against cancer.”