BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists have successfully reprogrammed B cells into functional T cells in living organisms for the first time, which could be useful in immune therapy against tumors and AIDS
The research was led by the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and jointly conducted by several other top institutions and universities in China.
T cells are generated by hematopoietic stem cells, which give rise to all blood cells and immune cells in living organisms.
The key bottleneck for scientists to generate functional T cells outside of living organisms is that the environment for their growth is very hard to simulate.
Unlike previous research, the study proves that Hoxb5, a transcription factor that regulates the genes in cells, can play a key role in generating functional T cells in vivo, according to a paper published in Nature Immunology.
Hoxb5, selected out of 15 candidate factors, first represses the determinant genes in B cells, then awakens the regulators in T cells and chromatin modifiers in B cells, and ultimately converts B cells into functional T cell progenitors, according to the paper.
The methodology successfully helped scientists develop new immune systems in rats that had T cell deficiency and increase T lymphocytes in their thymus within four weeks, the paper said.
A two-year follow-up observation showed that the tumor risk led by the reprogramming process is zero.
The scientists believe that their simple, efficient and economical way of generating T cells will contribute to biomedical studies in anti-tumor and anti-AIDS treatment in the future.