The human body contains immune cells programmed to fight cancer and viral infections, but they often have short lifespans and are not numerous enough to overcome attacks by particularly aggressive malignancies or invasions. Now researchers reporting in two separate papers in the January 4th issue of the Cell Press journal Cell Stem Cell used stem cell technology to successfully regenerate patients' immune cells, creating large numbers that were long-lived and could recognize their specified targets: HIV-infected cells in one case and cancer cells in the other. The findings could help in the development of strategies to rejuvenate patients' exhausted immune responses.
The techniques the groups employed involved using known factors to revert mature immune T cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which can differentiate into virtually any of the body's different cell types. The researchers then expanded these iPSCs and later coaxed them to redifferentiate back into T cells. Importantly, the newly made T cells were "rejuvenated" with increased growth potential and lifespan, while retaining their original ability to target cancer and HIV-infected cells. These findings suggest that manipulating T cells using iPSC techniques could be useful for future development of more effective immune therapies.