Wednesday, 16 October 2013

In the Future, We’ll Program Cells Like Computers

Researchers developing method to program human cells to combat HIV, cancer, Alzheimer’s—even aging

Scientists at the biotech startup Immusoft have a unique mission statement: They want to program human cells to become drug factories. They’re currently trying to get stem cells in bone marrow to produce antibodies for neutralizing HIV. If they’re successful, they may produce a unique front-line treatment for the disease.
But Immusoft isn’t stopping there—the company hopes to use their methods to treat Alzheimer’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and many more—even the effects of aging, potentially allowing for life extension.
Via New Scientist
IMAGINE never having to take a pill again. Instead, mini drug factories hidden inside your bones, and made from your own immune cells, would churn out personalised drugs and other molecules designed to keep you fit and healthy. Such a factory has been created in mice, and could soon be tested in humans to treat HIV.
“We want to turn people’s cells into drug factories, giving them the genetic information they need to produce their own treatment,” says Matthew Scholz of Immusoft in Seattle, which is developing the technique…
Ultimately, it might be possible to engineer B-cells to churn out any protein of choice. They could boost levels of hormones that fall as we age, or other substances that keep the body healthy, such as humanin. This protects brain cells against Alzheimer’s disease, and is present at higher than average levels in people who live to be 100. “It might be possible to recreate the biochemical environment of youth,” Scholz says.
According to the company’s website, within 50 years “we will program human cells like we program computers.” Immusoft also claims that getting a patient’s body to manufacture its own drugs will dramatically reduce the cost of treatment of disease—suggesting that treatment of MPS I could go from costing $250,000 to under $500 a year. This may put previously prohibitively expensive medical treatments in the financial range of the developing world.
Below, Immusoft CEO Matthew Scholz discusses the new technology.