Researchers affiliated with the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) and the department of Mechanical Engineering at École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS) have recently reported a new bio-compatible gel that could be injected directly in cancerous tumours while carrying anti-cancer agents that aim to specifically kill cancerous cells.
This gel was designed to safely accommodate immune anti-tumor cells known as T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) or simply T cells. These are the body’s natural immune response to fight against foreign or abnormal cells. T cells will attach to the abnormal cell and will release chemicals to destroy it. Unfortunately, they are not produced massively inside the body and low numbers are not enough to guarantee access and persistence to the tumor’s environment so they can “carry out their cytotoxic functions”, according to the authors of the study.
In regular adoptive cell therapies, T cells are ideally extracted from the patient, grown and multiplied in the lab and re-injected back in the blood stream, hoping an increase in density will be benefit the treatment. This, however, presents a downside: a hormone called interleukin-2 is used in high quantities along T cells growing and it has strong side effects in patients such as flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, weakness, loss of appetite, etc.
In the case of the bio-gel developed by Drs. Lapointe (CRCHUM) and Lerouge’s (ETS/CRCHUM) team, the ability to inject the bio-gel carrying T cells directly or right next to a cancerous tumour has 2 distinctive advantages: First, drastically reduce the amount of cells required to be grown in the lab and therefore, the interleukin-2 concentration. Second, T cells will have a higher success rate in specifically attacking the cancerous area they were intended to. In short, this bio-gel is a “cellular reservoir” for fighting cancer.
As reported, this bio-gel is a combination of chitosan compound with gelling agents. This compound is derived from the shells of sea crustaceans, predominantly shrimp and it presents little risk to humans. Furthermore, the bio-gel has a liquid phase at room temperatures (around 22-23°C), but once is injected and reaches the normal body temperature, 37°C (98.6°F), the gel’s phase is that of an elastic fabric with more cohesive and resistant mechanical properties. This makes it perfect for deploying not only of T cells but cancer fighting/immunity agents in exactly where they are needed, nowhere else.
The following video shows the mechanical properties of this new bio-gel:
So far this technology has successfully passed preliminary laboratory tests, using in vitro models of melanoma and kidney cancer. Hopefully, it will be on its way to start animal and human trials soon.
This study can be found at, source.
Luis Felipe Gerlein Reyes
Luis Felipe Gerlein R. is a Ph.D. candidate at ÉTS. His research interests include nanofabrication and characterization of optoelectronic devices based on lead chalcogenides, carbon-based nanostructures and perovskite materials.
Program : Electrical Engineering