Biomaterial Scaffold to Culture T Cells for Immune Cell Therapy

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Researchers at the Harvard Wyss Institute have developed a biomaterial scaffold that mimics the actions of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) in stimulating T cell growth and survival.

Anti-cancer T cell therapies involve culturing and modifying patient-specific T cells before administering them to a cancer patient, where they can attack and kill cancer cells. A major challenge with this technique lies in achieving sufficient T cell growth and survival in vitro to obtain a sufficient dose of T cells. The scaffold allowed the researchers to significantly expand T cell numbers in a dish, compared with existing culture methods and could bring T cell therapies, such as anti-cancer treatments closer to clinical reality.

Researchers at the Harvard Wyss Institute took inspiration from another immune cell type, the APC, which stimulates T cells to grow and survive during an immune response. The researchers designed a biomaterial scaffold that provides pro-survival and pro-growth biological cues to T cells, just like an APC in the body.

The research team used silica rods to develop scaffold. They loaded the rods with Interleukin-2, a protein produced by APCs that can enhance T cell survival and coated them using a lipid layer, to mimic the APC cell membrane. The team then incorporated antibodies to stimulate the T cells into the scaffold lipid membrane. “Our approach closely mimics how APCs present their stimulating cues to primary T cells on their outer membrane and how they release soluble factors that enhance the survival of the T cells,” said David Mooney, a researcher of the study.

According to CAR T Cell Therapy Market Report published by Coherent Market Insights, CAR T cell is an innovative technique that involves removal of T Cells from patient’s blood before reinsertion using a genetically altered mechanism. Using the scaffolds, the researchers were able to expand T cells from mice and humans much faster than existing culture techniques and they confirmed that the expanded cells have clinical potential in a mouse lymphoma model.


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