According to The Asahi Shimbun recently, a vital “cancer killer” cell in the human body that helps fight tumours and pathogens has been reproduced by a Kyoto University-led team, offering new hope to cancer patients.
The study marks the first time that natural killer T (NKT) cells have been reproduced from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. NKT cells stimulate cells that patrol the immune system in search of cancer cells and pathogens, along with cells that attack them.
The study, which may lead to a breakthrough in cancer treatment, was published in the online version of the U.S. scientific journal Stem Cell Reports on Feb. 9.
Scientists have previously successfully replicated the cells that keep watch over the immune system or attack pathogens from iPS cells, but this is the first time that NKT cells have been produced from them.
Although NKT cells play a vital role in the human immune system, they do not exist in large numbers in the human body, and their numbers are believed to drop lower in cancer patients.
The achievement opens up the possibility of acquiring NKT cells in large numbers if they can be produced from iPS cells, which can be cultivated infinitely.
“The combination of iPS-derived NKT cells with other immune cells could lead to the development of a wide variety of treatments,” said Shin Kaneko, a leading member of the study group who is an associate professor of cellular biology at the university’s Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application.
The study group focused on NKT cells that react to a certain kind of glycolipid and are known to exhibit an especially strong reaction to cancer cells.
The scientists extracted these NKT cells from the blood of healthy donors and transformed them into iPS cells, which later successfully turned back into NKT cells.
When the iPS-derived NKT cells were tested on leukemic cells, they were observed inducing other cells to attack cancer cells while they attacked the tumours themselves.
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