October 6, 2022

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Scientists train cell killers.  They carry out orders successfully

Scientists train cell killers. They carry out orders successfully

  • Lupus is an autoimmune disease – that is, a patient’s immune system attacks its own tissues. The skin, joints and kidneys can become “victims”. We cannot cure this disease
  • Scientists from Germany decided to use patients’ immune systems to fight lupus. The treatment is called CAR-T and involves “reprogramming” a patient’s cells to attack the target doctors want
  • To date, this method has been used to combat cancer (it is also available in Poland). However, success with lupus shows that CAR-T has the potential to treat other conditions as well
  • More important information can be found on Onet homepage

A remarkable treatment for lupus was applied to five patients – four women and a man – between the ages of 18 and 24. Symptoms of the disease eased so that they could return to a normal life – riding horses, resuming intermittent education or playing music in nightclubs.

“They really have a different life now,” said George Schitt, an immunologist at Friedrich and Alexander University in Erlangen and Nuremberg who was responsible for the experiment, in an interview with Science magazine. However, the scientist points out not to indulge in ecstasy. Patients now need to be monitored over many years to make sure the disease does not return and the treatment does not cause long-term side effects.

Lupus is a terrible disease in which the patient’s body turns against it (you can read more about it over here). Symptoms can come and go. Lupus is not severe in all patients.

“Despite significant advances in lupus treatment, some patients fail to respond to the latest treatments, which of course exposes them to severe organ damage and even death. Worse, we don’t even have a strategy to find a cure for lupus erythematosus, which would require a reset. profound effect on the patient’s immune system. We read in nature. Hence the idea of ​​using CAR-T therapy to fight disease.

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CAR-T is a true miracle of ultra-modern medicine. In short, doctors first take immune cells from the patient (specifically T cells) and then modify them to fight other unwanted cells in the patient. So far, these have been mainly cancer cells.

It is worth noting here that the CAR-T is available in Poland. From September 2021, it can be used to treat patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (a cancer of the bone marrow), and from May this year. Those with diffuse or treatment-resistant B-cell lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system).

CAR-T has been very successful in fighting cancer, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to treat. Patients must first undergo chemotherapy to destroy their immune system, thereby clearing the scope for the action of the modified cells, which the patient’s body will recognize as foreign.

Then there may be a so-called cytokine storm – the acute alarm that the body sometimes gives off in response to the appearance of an intruder. Because lupus is already an autoimmune disease, researchers were concerned that using CAR-T in this case might make the disease worse. However, Schett found one patient ready to undergo the experimental procedure.

When the above concerns were not realized in her case, the immunologist decided to find additional patients. He described his success in the magazine “Nature”. And there is a lot to be proud of – in patients, not only did the disease recede, but it also began to rebuild the immune system (specifically B lymphocytes) – this time with a version that did not cause problems. This is the “deep reset” Schett wrote about in Nature.

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Now the immunologist is planning a larger study — including more than 20 patients — and is preparing to run trials to treat other autoimmune diseases (including scleroderma). In the United States, a clinical trial of CAR-T therapy for pemphigus vulgaris (both cutaneous autoimmune diseases) is ongoing.

CAR-T treatment is not only available in Poland, it is also sought after here. The work, funded by the Medical Research Agency, aims to develop original methods of treating T-lymphocytes in a way that significantly reduces the cost of treatment, which now amounts to 2 million PLN.

Subsequent studies assume the development of the original Polish CAR-T, improved in relation to products currently registered in the world. This is a formidable challenge that includes research on cell lines, animals and ultimately the application of cells to humans with evaluations of efficacy and safety. We believe that the products developed by our scientists will be innovative and will contribute to increasing the chances of treating patients with lymphoma and leukemia in Poland and abroad – said the professor. Sebastian Gebel of the Medical University of Warsaw, and leader of one of the teams working on CAR-T in Poland.