What is cell therapy?
Your own cells can be the best cure of diseases.
While you are living and breathing, our immune cells are destroying pathogens, infected and mutated cells. They do that 24-7-365 to keep us in check and healthy. However, in diseases such as cancer or certain diabetes, the immune cells do not know what to fight or attack the wrong targets.
Cell therapy, essentially is training and boosting your cells to become therapeutics, a.k.a. to do the right thing in treating diseases. To date, diverse cell therapeutics have been developed and delivered to patients.
Cell therapeutics, the next pillar of medicine?
There has been rocketing number of clinical trials for cell therapy since 2010s. The market was valued at US$ 7.2 billion in 2021 and with a CAGR of 20.4% from 2021 to 2030. As of 2022, there are 2100 active clinical trials but only 33 clinical products are available for the masses. With scientific progress, there will be pressing need for next-generation reagents and technology to support cell therapeutics research and clinical translations.
Cell therapy process at a glance
Conventional immune cell therapeutics manufacturing process. (1) Cells are isolated from patient's blood. (2) Specific cell population is enriched with magnetic sorting. (3, 4, 5) Isolated cells are treated with signals and genetically modified during activation, differentiation and expansion. (6) Formulations are designed for better shelf-life, transportation and administration of cell therapeutics. (7, 8) Each step involves stringent quality control and assurance before delivering the primed cells back to the patients for disease treatment.
Elements to generate cell therapeutics
Like in a community, cells need to communicate with one another during growth and development. In the body, immune cells need special facilitator cells to train them to target diseases. For instance, dendritic cells are professional antigen presenting cells that train T- and B-cells to recognize and attack foreign intruders. The training process involves signaling molecules, i.e. the language medium found on the cell surface membrane and secreted.
Therefore, facilitator cells such dendritic cells are indispensable resource for immune cell therapeutics generation; however, when they are taken out to the lab, the facilitators become hard to control and suboptimal in ensuring high quality of immune cell products generation.
Good alternatives to facilitator cells are still being actively pursued in the market in giving the users both control and performance in generating cell therapeutics.