T cells help coordinate the body's immune response (Shutterstock)

A recent American study showed that a type of immune cell may improve health by eliminating senescent cells associated with diseases.

The study was conducted by researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in cooperation with researchers from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the United States, and was published in the journal Nature Aging. The EurekAlert website wrote about it.

The study was conducted on mice.

The cells involved are known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells.

T cells help coordinate the body's immune response, and they directly kill pathogens.

The researchers engineered these cells into a living treatment.

Since 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved 6 immunotherapies belonging to this family that are used to treat various cancers.

T cells are collected from the patient and then re-engineered in the laboratory to produce proteins that appear on the surface of these cells called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs).

These cells are multiplied in the laboratory so that their number reaches millions, then the patient is injected with them. If all goes well, these cells multiply within the body and recognize unhealthy cells through the receptor that was developed on their surface and then kill them.

Chimeric antigen receptor T cells have transformed the treatment of blood cancers over the past years.

A number of positive indications have emerged that this live drug could be harnessed to treat other diseases such as autoimmune disorders.

What did the study find?

Through this study, scientists found that using these cells holds a glimmer of hope for treating diseases associated with aging.

Aging cells are destructive cells that put themselves on alert and shut down. They stopped dividing and began sending a distress call to the immune cells in the body.

This situation helps in the short term, especially in the case of wound healing or to prevent cell proliferation in the case of cancer, but in the long term it leads to chronic inflammation associated with the accumulation of senescent cells with age.

Previous studies have shown that senescent cells carry a distinctive protein on their surface that does not appear on the surfaces of other cells.

A protein called urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) is the signature protein that appears on the surfaces of senescent cells and will become a target for modified T cells.

Through experiments, researchers were able to prove that cells increase the expression of this protein on their surfaces as they age and that it contributes significantly to causing age-related defects in the body’s tissues.

The scientists infused T cells with chimeric antigen receptors designed to target senescent cells, and this improved metabolic function in the cells of senescent mice or mice given high-fat diets.

In addition, giving a single dose of these cells prevented a decline in metabolic functions (which are the processes of construction and catabolism in the body, and new metabolism is linked to health) in the cells of young mice, according to the results of the study.

In this study, researchers fed young laboratory mice high-fat diets for two months, which made the mice obese and caused metabolic stress in them.

After being infused with the live treatment (CAR T cells), the mice lost weight and their fasting blood glucose levels improved. Their tolerance to insulin and glucose also improved despite remaining on the high-fat diet.

In addition, the number of senescent cells in the pancreas, liver, and adipose tissue was reduced compared to mice that did not receive the live treatment.

Similar positive results were seen in older mice who received the treatment.

As for the older mice who received the treatment, their health improved to the point that it took them longer to reach the stage of exhaustion after exercise.

The mice showed no signs of side effects from the treatment.

Dr. Amor Vegas, the researcher involved in this study, points out that T cells remember and remain in the body for a long time, which makes them different as a treatment from chemotherapy drugs.

One-time treatment

Some patients suffer from diseases that require several doses, and this treatment gives them the opportunity to receive treatment once and remain healthy for many years to follow.

More research must be conducted to find out whether this approach can increase the life span that mice spend in good health and without disease.

Lead researcher on this study and head of the Cancer Biology Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute, Dr. Scott Lowe, noted that scientists are still learning more about aging at the cellular level and that it will take some time.

Humans suffer from a number of diseases associated with aging that this new approach can help cure, such as acute pulmonary embolism, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and some neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. Lowe pointed out that what comes to mind when you hear T-cell therapy with chimeric antigen receptors is cancer, but using this approach to engineer immune cells to treat diseases has a broader horizon than we imagine.

Source: Al Jazeera + Yorek Alert