The body’s immune system performs many functions. While its primary purpose is to protect the body against diseases, it also plays a role in tissue repair, and interacts closely with other systems such as the nervous and endocrine systems. But some diseases, like cancer and HIV, have evolved to evade detection by the immune system or have modified their external structures, making it difficult to destroy them. These diseases can continue to cause harm and severe damage.
Immunoengineer Natalie Livingston, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, is giving a boost to the immune system by using biomaterials to activate a patient’s immune cells. With the help of her mentors, Hai-Quan Mao and Jonathan Schneck, one therapy she is trying to improve is adoptive cell therapy. This requires harvesting a patient’s T cells, a type of immune cell, activating them on an engineered hydrogel, then re-infusing them back into the patient so the newly activated cells can destroy diseased cells while leaving healthy cells alone.
This story was originally posted by the Institute for Nanobiotechnology.