Science news September 2018
Personalised cancer treatment: Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell Therapy
Science news from Seren, Sept 2018
The use of personalised medical treatment for cancer has been a target of healthcare for several years and it appears to now be within reach, with NHS England announcing early September 2018 that ‘CAR-T therapy’ will be available for children with a form of leukaemia. CAR-T therapy stands for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy and involves the genetic engineering of T-cells taken from the patient’s blood. The cells are modified in a laboratory so that they express a receptor on their cell surface, the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), which can identify and target cancer cells by binding to specific tumour-associated antigens. The CAR-T cells are then grown to large numbers and re-injected into the patient where they can now attach to, and kill, cancer cells. This approach prevents cancer cells from escaping recognition by the patient’s immune system, which was happening beforehand without the expression of CAR.
This form of treatment in which a patient’s own immune cells are modified to treat cancer is known as immunotherapy, and looks to be a promising approach for several more cancers as well as autoimmune disorders.
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Fungus eats plastic
In a rubbish tip in Pakistan, an amazing discovery was made. The fungus Aspergillus tubingensiswas degrading the plastic, polyurethane. The mycelium of the fungus spread into the polyurethane and it broke down in a few weeks rather than many years. This was seen using scanning electron microscopy. The technique of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy was used to confirm the breakage of the chemical bonds. This is a very important observation in the battle against plastic pollution.