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Researchers develop synthetic T cells, that function like the human version.

The unique properties of naturally occurring immune cells in the human body have inspired many efforts to synthetically engineer a unit capable of mimicking their behaviors.  Now, a study from researchers at UCLA develops synthetic T lymphocytes, or T cells, being hailed as a near-perfect reproduction of human T cells.  The team states such cells could eventually be mass-produced to boost the immune system of people with cancer or immune deficiencies.  The findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Previous studies have shown T cells are activated when infection enters the body, where they flow through the bloodstream to reach the infected areas.  T cells have the ability to deform to as small as one-quarter of their normal size and can grow to almost three times their original size, helping them overcome antigens launching an attack against the immune system.  However, the complex structure of T cells and their multifunctional nature have made it difficult for scientists to replicate them in the lab.  The current study develops super‐soft functional microparticles capable of mimicking the features of natural T cells.

The current study fabricates T cells using a microfluidic system to form microparticles that replicate natural T cells.  To provide the synthetic T cells with the same traits as natural T cells to fight infection, penetrate human tissue and release cellular messengers to regulate inflammation, the artificial T cells were coated with phospholipids so their exterior would closely mimic human cellular membranes.

Results show the synthetic cells successfully linked to the T cells with CD4 signalers, the particles responsible for activating natural T cells to attack infection or cancer cells.  Data findings show these particles can penetrate 3D microenvironments, have prolonged blood circulation, and can release various cytokines on demand.

The team surmises they have successfully developed a novel class of artificial T cells capable of boosting the host’s immune system by interacting with natural immune cells through direct contact, activation, or releasing inflammatory or regulatory signals.  For the future, the researchers state the global medical community could use the same process to develop various types of artificial immune cells for therapeutic or simulation purposes.

Source: University of California – Los Angeles

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