Los Angeles, California–(Newsfile Corp. – August 1, 2022) – Dr. Yasmin Mohseni, an immunologist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine who specializes in research and clinical translation of immunotherapeutics, recently announced that companies are pursuing groundbreaking approaches to the treatment of autoimmune diseases and solid organ transplant rejection by engineering cells of the immune system.
In response to an infection, regulatory T cells (also known as Tregs) suppress the immune system. Several studies have shown that Tregs are effective in treating autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, graft-versus-host disease, and liver and kidney transplantation. Adoptive Treg therapy is the name given to this treatment. In order to achieve the next step, Tregs must be engineered to be specific to their target. CAR Treg therapy involves engineering Tregs in a way that provides a more efficient and finely tuned immune response. The CAR Treg therapy for solid organ rejection will enter Phase I/II trials within a few years, despite being in its infancy. By engineering the immune system, the approach allows organ transplants to be recognized and marked as safe by the body. Transplants are often rejected because the immune system recognizes tiny proteins in the transplanted organ as foreign – despite the fact that donors and recipients are closely matched.
The technology is derived from cancer immunotherapy, also known as CAR T cell therapy, where instead of engineering immune suppressors, T cells that kill tumors are engineered. First-of-its-kind proof-of-concept CAR Treg prototype created by Mohseni is capable of not only recognizing the intended target, but also turbocharging the Tregs so that they function more effectively than normal Tregs.
As clinicians move away from conventional strategies such as immunosuppressants, which all too often cause complications for patients, Dr. Mohseni’s seminal research and development work focuses on engineering the immune system. As it applies to immune oncology (cancers), autoimmunity, and organ transplantation, Dr Mohseni’s immune system engineering prototype has enormous value.
Dr. Mohseni’s groundbreaking development work has advanced CAR Treg therapy further, and shown that additional payloads can provide success for immunoregulation, something previously demonstrated only in CAR T cell therapies. Using CAR technology, once incurable diseases can be cured by killing the immune system killers, helper cells, or suppressor cells. Six FDA-approved CAR T cell therapies are currently being used to treat liquid cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. The next goal is whether this would work equally well for patients with solid cancers, since solid tumors have extra defenses that prevent the immune system from attacking them.
The Nobel Prize in 2018 was awarded for an immunotherapy strategy for cancer, so it should come as no surprise that these strategies are the focus of cell and gene therapy companies today. There is hope that immunotherapy treatments for more aggressive cancers will become available in the next few years, as well as immunoregulation treatments.
Press Contact: Dr. Yasmin Mohseni
Email: [email protected]
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