Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system starts attacking the body’s own cells. They can cause a wide range of deleterious symptoms that greatly reduce a patient’s quality of life. Treatments often involve globally suppressing the immune system, which can lead to a host of undesirable side effects.
However, researchers at the University of Chicago might have found a workaround by tapping into the body’s own control mechanisms. It may be possible to hack the immune system and change its targeting without disabling it entirely. The new technique of creating “inverse vaccines” could revolutionize the treatment of autoimmune conditions.
Tattoos are an interesting technology. They’re a way of marking patterns and designs on the skin that can last for years or decades. All this, despite the fact that our skin sloughs off on a regular basis!
As it turns out, tattoos actually have a deep and complex interaction with our immune system, which hold some of the secrets regarding their longevity. New research has unveiled more insight into how the body responds when we get inked up.
By now everyone has probably seen the devastation wrought by the structural failure of what was once the world’s largest free-standing cylindrical aquarium. The scale of the tank, which until about 5:50 AM Berlin time on Friday graced the lobby of the Raddison Blu hotel, was amazing — 16 meters tall, 12 meters in diameter, holding a million liters of saltwater and some 1,500 tropical fish. The tank sat atop a bar in the hotel lobby and was so big that it even had an elevator passing up through the middle of it.
But for some reason, the tank failed catastrophically, emptying its contents into the hotel lobby and spilling the hapless fish out into the freezing streets of Berlin. No humans were killed by the flood, which is miraculous when you consider the forces that were unleashed here. Given the level of destruction, the displaced hotel guests, and the fact that a €13 million structure just up and failed, we’re pretty sure there will be a thorough analysis of the incident. We’re pretty interested in why structures fail, so we’ll be looking forward to finding out the story here.
One of the human body’s greatest features is its natural antivirus protection. If your immune system is working normally, it produces legions of T-cells that go around looking for abnormalities like cancer cells just to gang up and destroy them. They do this by grabbing on to little protein fragments called antigens that live on the surface of the bad cells and tattle on their whereabouts to the immune system. Once the T-cells have a stranglehold on these antigens, they can release toxins that destroy the bad cell, while minimizing collateral damage to healthy cells.
This rather neat human trick doesn’t always work, however. Cancer cells sometimes mask themselves as healthy cells, or they otherwise thwart T-cell attacks by growing so many antigens on their surface that the T-cells have no place to grab onto.
Medical science has come up with a fairly new method of outfoxing these crafty cancer cells called CAR T-cell therapy. Basically, they withdraw blood from the patient, extract the T-cells, and replace the blood. The T-cells are sent off to a CRISPR lab, where they get injected with a modified, inactive virus that introduces a new gene which causes the T-cells to sprout a little hook on their surface.
This hook, which they’ve dubbed the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), allows the T-cell to chemically see through the cancer cells’ various disguises and attack them. The lab multiplies these super soldiers and sends them back to the treatment facility, where they are injected into the patient’s front lines.