Another Case for Weaponizing Our Immune Systems

Two blogs from me in the same day! Lucky you…

Earlier I spoke about how our immune systems could be a potential roadblock to some gene editing practices. Here we’re going to chat about one study that is trying to stimulate the immune system to treat illnesses that it normally wouldn’t be able to go after.

An article caught my eye that discusses a study into immunotherapy, so we’re heading across the pond to University of Leeds where scientists, “have found that [a] naturally occurring virus could act as an effective immunotherapy in patients with brain cancer or other cancers that have spread to the brain.”

The scientists studied brain cancer patients, and showed “that a virus could be delivered to a tumor in the brain. Not only was it able to reach its target, but there were signs it stimulated the body’s own immune defenses to attack the cancer.”

What’s unique here is that the virus, reovirus, is able not only to pass into the brain and kill cancer cells, but also (and maybe more importantly) allow the body’s immune system to fight the tumor.

This example of harnessing the immune system is huge because as the one of the co-authors of the study said, Our immune systems aren’t very good at ‘seeing’ cancers — partly because cancer cells look like our body’s own cells, and partly because cancers are good at telling immune cells to turn a blind eye. But the immune system is very good at seeing viruses.”

Now this article doesn’t specifically relate to CF, I know, but I’m drawing attention to it simply because it’s showing that immunotherapy is just as explosive of an area of study as is gene editing in some ways.

Our immune system is a very powerful thing, we just don’t totally know how to harness it. For example, in cystic fibrosis, our immune system is unable to fight some of these nasty antibiotic resistant bacteria that we deal with, yet it flips the f*ck out because it knows something is wrong. Often, however, it does more harm than good. In a very basic way that’s kind of where the heavy inflammation comes from, and why you see so much money being poured into anti-inflammatory research in CF.

What if there was a way to harness our immune systems to fight for us? That’s something worth considering, and also something that is being pursued as we step further and further into the antibiotic crisis.

We are at the beginning of immunotherapy… don’t be surprised if it starts to become common practice somewhere down the road.