Controlling T-cells to attack cells linked to Type-1 diabetes

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An encouraging new study at the University of Arizona (UA) could lead to new immunotherapy treatments for Type-1 diabetes and could be extended to other autoimmune diseases. The study involves genetically engineered T-cells that can seek out and destroy pathogens in the pancreas. The research was led by UA’s Michael Kuhns, an associate professor in immunobiology.

Controlling T-cells

The immune system utilizes T-cells to create antibodies and fight off invaders. In rare instances, Kuhns said, T-cells can attack your own body. Kuhn’s study looked into the “molecular machine,” a component that moves in response to stimuli, that manages T-cells and used that information to control the cell’s actions.

“That’s how we came up with the idea of biomimicry, mimicking the molecular machine that drives the T-cell. We engineer a new molecular machine that would target those T-cells and mediate autoimmune disease.”

The team has the blueprint for the gene that “encodes the protein” and design the components needed to engineer the molecular machine. The science community is gaining a strong foothold in understanding T-cells, how they activate, and how to engineer and program new molecules to act on orders.

How T-cells help

“In a mouse model with Type-1 diabetes, we can get our new T-cells to go out and find, hunt down, and totally eliminate the population of autoimmune T-cells,” said Kuhns, who defined the treatment as a type of immunotherapy.

“The idea here was to try and make a contribution in that arena where we could then, ultimately, develop this into a therapy that would happen,” said Kuhns who saw a need to improve immunotherapies.

Dr. Michael Kuhns, UA, Associate Professor in Immunobiology

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