Research Associate Daria Chulpanova applying membrane vesicles for possible therapy of cancer
“Tumor cells can control the cells of the immune system, suppressing their direct and most significant function – the destruction of tumor cells. The introduction of recombinant proteins of the human immune system can return immune cells to a working state. For example, intravenous administration of large amounts of interleukin 2 has been successfully used to treat advanced melanoma and kidney cancer. Interleukin 2 triggers certain immune cells called lymphocytes that fight disease and infection. However, its use in medical practice is limited by significant side effects such as increased vascular permeability, hypotension, pulmonary edema, liver cell damage, and renal failure,” comments Chulpanova. “First, we genetically modify stem cells derived from the patient’s adipose tissue with a harmless virus so that they produce large quantities of the interleukin 2 protein. When returned to the patient’s body, these cells will go to the tumor and secrete the drug protein. A large amount of interleukin 2 will stimulate the immune system, forcing it to fight the tumor, while the effect will not extend to organs and tissues of the body remote from the tumor. The use of stem cells in clinical practice is limited by the fact that they can turn into unwanted cell types.”
To avoid existing side effects, the scholars decided to use vesicles produced from genetically modified cells.
“Vesicles are structures that are naturally produced by all cells in the body and are able to carry proteins from parent cells. The use of vesicles is a more promising approach in modern applied science compared to cells, since they do not change under the influence of a tumor and can carry therapeutic drugs. Vesicles obtained from genetically modified cells contain interleukin 2 and, once in the body, can transfer it to immune cells,” adds the young geneticist.
Such a ‘packaging’ can help reduce dosage of experimental preparations and thus reduce collateral damage. During lab tests, the vesicles have successfully disrupted breast cancer cells.
Chulpanova has already defended her Candidate of Science (PhD) thesis on this material and has been among the winners of the Maksimov Prize for Hematology, Immunology and Oncology.