“Express Courier Service” Helps Immune Cells Work More Effectively

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A NUS Biomedical engineering researcher has successfully invented a new transfection method using nano-electro-injection to deliver DNA into immune cells. The new genetical modification method can boost efficiency of immunotherapy to treat several cancers.


Researchers regard immunotherapy as a primary treatment or a combined part with traditional treatments. Through the combination of treatments, the growth of cancer cells is expected to slow down or stop, and the spreading can also be prevented.




CAR-T cell therapy


CAR-T tell therapy, or Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell therapy, is a FDA-approved treatment for lymphoma and leukemia cancers. It collects T cells (a type of immune cell) from the patient’s blood, genetically modifies them, and infuses them back into the patient. The genetically engineered cells will then locate and kill cancer cells.


However, the genetical modification of T cells requires a laboratory environment, and is not efficient enough, with potential serious side effects. Dr. Andy Tay has successfully invented a novel transfection (the process of genetical modification of the immune cells) method to deliver DNA into immune cells with minimal stress on them.



The new technique is expected to boost DNA-based cancer immunotherapy because it significantly improves the process of generating high-quality genetically modified immune cells.





Dr. Tay developed a technique called nano-electro-injection to deliver DNA into the cells. By applying localized electric fields through nanotubes, which is about 5,000 times smaller than a grain of rice, researchers can open small pores on cell membrane, and put DNA into cells.


This new technique is two to three times more efficiently than the previous method, and the cells treated with this technique are more likely to grow healthily.



Dr. Tay is currently working on an even better technique to deliver DNA into primary immune T cells by integrating the nano-electro-injection platform with magnetic forces. His aim is to create the FedEx and UPS equivalent of DNA delivery to achieve highly efficient transfection with minimal stresses to cells.

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