Keck study a step towards curing cancer
Posted February 14, 2013 at 11:57 pm in News
Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine have found a way to genetically modify mice so the rodentsâ immune systems act like human immune systems, a discovery that will impact medical testing.
Doctors Weiming Yuan, Xiangshu Wen, Seil Kim and Agnieszka Lawrenczyk published the study this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research took about two years and the project will be completed within four years.
Yuan, the projectâs chief investigator, began work on the mice a few years ago, after he recognized that current clinical trials were not successful. Yuan attributed this to minor differences between human and rodent immune systems. This difference led him to attempt to humanize the mouse model.
âMaking a mouse is a challenging project,â Yuan said. âThis will be helping a lot of scientists to further clinical trials.â
The mice contribute to research toward finding better treatments for cancer. When tested on mice, the drug Î±-GalCer successfully rid the animal of cancerous cells. The same results, however, were not obtained when the medication was used on human subjects, showing differences between the two speciesâ immune systems.
The mice modification project required the successful insertion of a new functioning gene. This type of modification is far more challenging than so-called âknock-outâ genetic modification, which is modification that works by eliminating a geneâs function. Yuan said the next step will be to further humanize the T-cell receptor, which activates lymphocytes that initiate immune system responses.
The team used the difficulty of the project as motivation to succeed. Yuan said they were all very enthusiastic about their research despite difficulty working with the small size of their grant.
â[We] definitely needed more funding â itâs the practical challenges,â Yuan said. âLots of scientists are concerned about the funding situation.â
The team hopes to further their work in the humanization of the rodentsâ immune system.
âWe will branch out, but right now we have more work to further humanize the mice,â Yuan said. âWe still have quite a lot of work to do before we branch out.â
The dedication and enthusiasm of the team is only gaining momentum. âThe future model will be even more reliable,â Yuan said.