A bioengineered factory for T-cells

IMAGE: An SEM cross-section of the injectable sponge, showing pore shape and structure. Scale bar, 200 nanometers. view more 

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Bone marrow transplants, also known as hematopoietic stem cell transplants, are life-saving treatments for aggressive diseases, such as leukemia and multiple myeloma, and infections such as HIV. The procedure entails infusion of blood stem cells from a matched donor into the patient to ‘reset’ the blood and immune system.

Immune cells develop from blood stem cells that are reside in the bone marrow. In order to treat the disease and prevent the patient’s body from rejecting the transplanted cells, patients undergo intensive conditioning, which involves administration of chemotherapy and radiation. However, the conditioning regimen also significantly compromises the functioning of normal cells in the bone marrow, and therefore compromises their ability to regenerate the immune system. This includes a reduced ability to generate T-cells, and causes profound long-term post-transplant immune deficiency, increases the risk of opportunistic infectious diseases and immunological complications such as graft-versus-host-disease.

Now, Harvard engineers and stem cell biologists have developed an injectable sponge-like gel that enhances the production T-cells after a bone marrow transplant, increasing the quantity and diversity of these key components of the immune system. This


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