According to a new study, refining the purification process of therapeutic cells may help in enhancing their use for treating cancer and many other diseases. Before the cells are transplanted, the cells have to be purified to reduce the inclusion of undesired cell types, with the therapeutic cells that clinicians and researchers want to use. This process can be unsuitable and limited, where all other cell types are not removed, or can damage the cells needed for a transplant, making them useless.
Hirohide Saito and colleagues are investigating methods that target signatures within cells rather than on the surface. Their instruments look for specific microRNAs (miRNAs), small molecules that are found in plants and animals, which they believe will prove more selective and damage fewer cells. miRNAs can switch genes on and off. The researches have designed a synthetic tool named miRNA switch. The miRNA switch can find these small molecules within the cell.
It has already successfully purified many cell types, so the scientists are able to have samples of solely heart muscle cells, liver cells, cells that line blood vessels or cells that produce insulin. The percentage of purified cells is far higher than that using standard antibody purification because the markers the tool looks for are more specific than the commonly used antibodies and cell surface receptors.
The cells are also less likely to be damaged compared with antibody-based techniques, because they do not need to be handled as much. The team hopes to refine the technique so that it is attractive for research and is now working with several groups that are planning for cell based therapies in patients. The study was published in journal Cell Stem Cell.