First three-component artificial immune system made of DNA computers.

The body’s protector from all things dangerous, the immune system is a highly adaptive line of defense in the body consisting of a network of cells, skin and proteins guarding against infection, whilst memorizing past encounters with said pathogens. It is this complex recognition and immune memory that surpasses any pre-existing technology, providing the inspiration for artificial immune systems, a class of artificially intelligent, biocomputational algorithms.

An artificial immune system

Now, a study from researchers led by ECUST develops the first three-component artificial immune system employing DNA-computers. The team states their system can recognize, neutralize, and memorize a foreign body via DNA nanomachines which simulate three different types of immune cells. The study is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Previous studies show the mammalian immune system contains white blood cells produced in the bone marrow which patrol the host looking for pathogens. These white blood cells include dendritic cells whose job is to initiate the immune response by engulfing antigens, the harmful parts of a pathogen, degrading them to present on their cell surface to activate T cells and B cells.

The immunity cascade then begins with T cells destroying the pathogen and any host cells it has infected, and B cells destroying the invaders whilst producing antibodies helping to form an immunological memory. To date this cross-patterned, highly adaptive immune response has not been simulated in synthetic biological engineering. The current study engineers the first artificial immune system to simulate the dendritic immunity cascade with each cell type represented by DNA computers.

Programmable DNA computer

The current study biomimics three immune cells, namely, dendritic cells, T cells, and B cells using gold nanoparticles carrying single-stranded DNA or DNA hairpin loops on their surfaces. Results show when HIV DNA is used to trigger the three DNA computers, the artificial response clears approximately 93% of the pathogen after 22 hours. Data findings show after reinfection with the identical pathogen, 97% of the foreign viral material is destroyed within 10 hours, exhibiting an immune-adaptive memory.

Results show the immunity cascade occurs in the correct sequence with the dendritic DNA computer attacking the pathogen first, this breaks open its DNA hairpin configuration to release a DNA strand to activate the T cell biocomputer. Data findings show the artificial T cell then releases its own DNA strand to activate the system’s memory, the B cell mimic.

The lab explains this causes the artificial B cell to release a DNA strand that permanently binds to the pathogen strand, unlocking the synthetic B cell’s hairpin DNA structure. They go on to add this enables the B cell nanomachine to respond and clear the pathogen more rapidly without the cascade.

The team surmises they have engineered the first three-component artificial immune system consisting of DNA-computers. For the future, the researchers state as their DNA computers can interact with biological systems, they could be used as smart drugs, autonomously detecting diseases and releasing therapeutics as necessary.

Source: Chemistry World

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