Advancement of CAR
T-Cell Therapy (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell Therapy) using CRISPR/Cas9 is
a major topic that I feel Biologist should work on over the next decade. This
is so as cancer still remain as one of the leading cause of death worldwide, with
minimal to no cure at late stages. This makes cancer a crucial issue in the
medical research industry considering the increasing amount of people being diagnosed
with cancer globally each year.
More focus has been placed in Immunotherapy in
recent years as it causes less harm to the body due to the lesser side effects it
produces as compared to chemotherapy. This is so as it utilizes the body’s own
immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is also more specific as it
targets only the cancer cells(apart from non-specific cancer immunotherapies)
whereas chemotherapy attacks cells undergoing cell division. This means that
normal cells undergoing cell division are also killed to a certain extent as
well, making the side effects of chemotherapy far more adverse.
A major breakthrough in the field of
immunotherapy would be the CAR T-Cell Therapy whereby patient’s T Cells are
taken out, modified and mass produced in the lab before infusing them back into
the patient’s body to attack on cancerous cells that harbours the targeted
antigens on their surface. Many patients treated with this form of therapy
showed a high success rate and mostly, have complete remission thus far.
However, since autologous T cells are mostly utilized in CAR T-Cell Therapy, it is highly expensive and
time consuming to optimize such individualised treatments. Hence, using T cells
from allogenic sources would be a more rational option as it can be used
universally as an off-the-shelf product, so as to cut cost and save time. The
problem with using allogenic T cells is that it causes immune rejection due to recognition
of foreign antigens by the immune system.
CRISPR/Cas9, a highly
precise genome editing technology could be used to solve this problem by editing
the genes of CAR T cells, making them HLA(Human leukocyte antigen) deficient,
thereby reducing immune rejection. On top of that, CRISPR/Cas9 can be used to
improve the functionality of CAR T Cells
such as by increasing their specificity towards certain cancer antigens or eliminating
their expression of PD1(Programmed cell
death protein 1) receptors.
As such, being able to refine CAR T-Cells using CRISPR/Cas9 would make the this form of
therapy more effective, less time consuming and inexpensive. This could potentially
save the lives of million and make a big leap in the biology research field.