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Building 'smart' cell-based therapies
Date:4/17/2014

erent biosensors can be present in a single cell without interfering with one another, allowing bioengineers to build increasingly sophisticated functional programs. The platform is also highly modular, enabling the biosensors to be customized to recognize factors of relevance to various patients' needs.

"By linking the output of these biosensors to genetic programs, one can build in a certain logical command, such as 'turn the output gene on when you sense this factor but not that factor,'" Leonard explains. "In that way, you could program a cell-based therapy to specify which cells it should kill."

Leonard says doctors could potentially collect immune cells from a patient's body, engineer the cells using MESA, and put them back into the patient. From there, the cells would do the work of detecting cancer or the disease they are designed to identify.

This is the first completely ground-up engineering of a receptor, and now that the core technology has been established, Leonard's team is moving forward to program cells to recognize specific tumor-associated factors. They are also looking toward applications beyond advanced cell-based therapies.

"This seems to be what always happens in synthetic biology," he says. "When you start building something, you first learn a lot about the system that you are trying to modify. In the end, you come up with not only useful applications but tools that facilitate basic science."


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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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