Engineered Thymus From Human Cells

Researchers at University College London (UCL)  and the Crick Institute have rebuilt a human thymus, an essential organ in the immune system, using human stem cells and a bioengineered scaffold. Their work is an important step towards being able to build artificial thymi which could be used as transplants.

The thymus is an organ in the chest where T lymphocytes, which play a vital role in the immune system, mature. If the thymus does not work properly or does not form during foetal development in the womb, this can lead to diseases such as severe immunodeficiency, where the body cannot fight infectious diseases or cancerous cells, or autoimmunity, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the patient’s own healthy tissue.

In their proof-of-concept study, published in Nature Communications, the scientists rebuilt thymi using stem cells taken from patients who had to have the organ removed during surgery. When transplanted into mice, the bioengineered thymi were able to support the development of mature and functional human T lymphocytes.

Showing it is possible to build a working thymus from human cells is a crucial step towards being able to grow thymi which could one day be used as transplants,” says Sara Campinoti, author and researcher in the Epithelial Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the Crick. 

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
AND
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

How To Eradicate Breast Tumors In 11 Days

Despite unbelievable advances in medical science in recent decades, breast cancer kills. Approximately 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer cells during the course of their lifetime.

Finding a cure is imperative, and as such, fervent research continues. At the European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam, scientists presented a pair of drugs with an astounding claim: this treatment can eradicate some types of breast cancer in only 11 days, eliminating the need for chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy, whilst an amazing feat of medical-scientific engineering, is known for its uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating side effects. Women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment may lose their hair, suffer extreme fatigue, and even loss of cognitive functionCancers may also recur after long, painful months of chemotherapy treatment.

The new trial, raising hopes across the medical community, is focused upon two drugs: Herceptin and Lapatinib. The drugs, in tandem, target a protein known as HER2, which is instrumental in stimulating the growth of certain cancer cells.

A pair of drugs can dramatically shrink and eliminate some breast cancers in just 11 days, UK doctors have shown.

They both target HER2 – a protein that fuels the growth of some women’s breast cancersHerceptin works on the surface of cancerous cells while lapatinib is able to penetrate inside the cell to disable HER2.

The study, which also took place at NHS hospitals in Manchester, gave the treatment to women with tumours measuring between 1 and 3cm. But Prof Bliss believes the findings could eventually mean some women do not need chemotherapy.

In less than two weeks of treatment, the cancer disappeared entirely in 11% of cases, and in a further 17% they were smaller than 5mm.

Current therapy for HER2 positive breast cancers is surgery, followed by chemotherapy and Herceptin. But Prof Bliss believes the findings could eventually mean some women do not need chemotherapy.

Source: https://www.bbc.com

A Weapon To Fight Lung Cancer

Researchers at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) have discovered a new metabolic vulnerability in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) that can be targeted by existing drug therapies.

SCLC is a deadly and aggressive form of lung cancer with few therapeutic options and an incredibly low five-year survival rate of 5 percent. Researchers at CRI believe the key to finding new therapies for this disease lies in better understanding the metabolism of SCLC.

Cancerous cells reprogram their metabolic pathways to grow and spread rapidly through the body. In some forms of cancer, cancer cells become highly dependent or “addicted” to specific metabolic pathways as a result of genetic mutations. Identifying these pathways can lead to new treatment options.

SCLC metabolism has not previously been studied in-depth,” said Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis, Professor at CRI and Director of CRI’s Genetic and Metabolic Disease Program.If we identify the metabolic pathways SCLC uses to grow and spread, then maybe we can find drugs to inhibit them. This could effectively cut off the fuel supply to these tumors.”

To discover new vulnerabilities in SCLC, researchers at CRI analyzed metabolism and gene expression in cells obtained from more than 25 human SCLC tumors. From the data, they identified two distinct categories of SCLC defined by the level of two oncogenes: MYC and ASCL1. Oncogenes are genes known to promote cancer formation and growth.

The study, published in Cell Metabolism, found that MYC stimulated synthesis of purine molecules. Purines are essential for cells to produce RNA and DNA, both of which are required for growth and division. MYC-expressing cells had a particular need for a specific type of purine called guanosine.

We were excited to discover that purine synthesis was so important for this subset of SCLC cells. There are already safe and effective inhibitors of guanosine synthesis used in patients for other diseases besides cancer. Our findings suggested that mice with MYC-expressing SCLC might benefit from treatment with drugs that inhibit purine synthesis,” said Dr. Fang Huang, a visiting scholar at CRI and first author on the paper.

To test the hypothesis, researchers treated mice from multiple different mouse models of SCLC with the drug mizoribine, a purine synthesis inhibitor. Treatment with this drug suppressed tumor growth and significantly extended the lifespan in mice with MYC-expressing SCLC.

Our findings suggest purine synthesis inhibitors could be effective in SCLC patients whose tumors have high levels of MYC. If we are right, this could quickly provide a new treatment for this disease, which has few options at present,” said Dr. DeBerardinis.

Source: https://www.utsouthwestern.edu/