The Sleeping Beauty gene transfer system “awakens” transposon, which are DNA sequences that researchers find useful for altering DNA inside human cells. Sleeping Beauty exploits the transposon so that it can relocate genetic material with a “cut and paste” approach.
According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers fought infections by invasive Aspergillus fungus by modifying T cells with the Sleeping Beauty gene transfer system. Research leader Laurence Cooper, MD, PhD, and researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center used Sleeping Beauty to make T cells express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which caused the T cells to target sugar molecules in Aspergillus cell walls. This approach may prove useful for immunosuppressed patients, such as patients with hematopoietic stem cell transplants, which treat blood or bone marrow cancers.
Dimitrios Kontoyiannis, MD, ScD, said although antifungal therapies are available, the drugs’ effectiveness is compromised due to the patient’s weakened immune system from hematopoietic stem cell transplants as well as emerging resistance to antifungals. Cooper said that his research team studied their new gene therapy against fungus due to CARs’ successful treatment of patients with B-cell malignancies.
Redirecting T-cell specificity opens up the potential for more investigations of its effects on other pathogens and malignancies.
Sleeping Beauty and fungal infections—not two items one would normally associate together, but for immunocompromised cancer patients they may prove to be a helpful combination. A study at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center used the Sleeping Beauty gene transfer system to modify T cells in hopes of fighting major life-threatening infections caused by invasive Aspergillus fungus.