San Diego, Calif., Sept. 28, 2017 — A team of researchers has engineered smart protein molecules that can reprogram white blood cells to ignore a self-defense signaling mechanism that cancer cells use to survive and spread in the body. Researchers say the advance could lead to a new method of re-engineering immune cells to fight cancer and infectious diseases. The team successfully tested this method in a live cell culture system.
The work was led by bioengineering professors Peter Yingxiao Wang and Shu Chien with collaborating professors Victor Nizet and Xiangdong Xu, all at the University of California San Diego, along with researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The team published their work this month in Nature Communications.
The smart proteins, called “iSNAPS” (integrated sensing and activating proteins), are designed to detect precise molecular signals in live cells and in response, act upon those signals to enable the cells to fight disease or perform other beneficial functions. This study is the first to demonstrate how both sensing and activating capabilities can be combined into a single molecule, Wang said.
The researchers inserted their iSNAPS into a type of white blood cells called macrophages and demonstrated that they dramatically enhanced the macrophages’ ability to engulf and destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells… Continue reading....