CAR-T Like a Rock Star

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Ever wonder how your immune system will take out invading pathogens and cells infected with said pathogens with precision and purpose, but don’t seem to do anything to an invading cancer cell? Me too. Luckily for a lot of people out there, folks much smarter than this blogger asked that question, had some grand ideas, and ushered us into the era of immunotherapy: Using one’s own immune system to combat disease, and in this case, cancer. Specifically blood cancers. And in doing so, may have introduced us to one of the greatest medical rock stars to grace our lives since the advent of the vaccine (Linus Paulus has left the building, folks): CAR-T therapy, short for Chimeric Antigen Receptor. So who are the band members signing that huge money deal? None other than your own body’s T cells. But, unlike our favorite Star-Spangled Banner solo guitar god, these rock stars aren’t on drugs… wait for it……..

They ARE the drugs!

It’s ok, I’ll wait while your stuff your blown-out mind back into your brain basket.

Welcome back!  So, how does this magic occur? By molecular biology of course! In a nutshell, a patient’s T cells are taken and isolated. Then they’re given a gene which codes for a protein whose sole job will be to recognize cancer in the patient’s body. Then a researcher, much like you and me, will make more of these cells and then they will be reintroduced to the patient. And then the show begins! Thousands of T cells, armed with this new DNA, will seek out and destroy the cancer cells, making for a very effective therapy.

But, our favorite amp-smashing heroes aren’t known for their predictability or their stellar decision making skills, and neither are these new heroes to make it on the scene. No, it’s not a cancelled show in your town due to “fatigue” but something they call a “Cytokine Storm.” Once the modified T cells are reintroduced, they might trigger the release of cytokine, which in turn will mobilize other immune cells in the body. Once that happens, nausea, fever, and extreme fatigue would be a few of the symptoms. It’s kinda like the heavy metal band that trashes the hotel room and then tosses the TV (I’m old; they used to be heavy and cumbersome) out of the penthouse window for good measure.

Naturally the good folks at Gemini are poised to help you with your own immunotherapy research. Whether it’s transfection kits, special media, or supplements, they’ve got you covered. So with that said, I’ll end with my advice: if you’re going to CAR-T like a rock star, please do so responsibly. I need readers.

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