Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A cure for leukemia? GM T-cells make 7/8 terminally ill patients feel great

LIGO: Off-topic: the Indian government has in principle agreed with LIGO India!
A rather profound report from the medical research spread to the media today. A new clever trick seems to cure cancer, especially leukemia.

The human T-lymphocyte

The Science Magazine published the method already in 2013 but it apparently took years to check whether the protocol works. Now, more than 2 years later, the folks at the New York cancer center finally informed us that 14 of 16 ill people – and they were really considered fatally ill – seem to be symptom-free in early 2016.

As you know, the blood contains red blood cells (without the cell nucleus) that deliver oxygen in the organs, thrombocytes (platelets) whose task is to stop bleeding, and the white blood cells i.e. leukocytes that are pillars of the immunity system.

One of the types of white blood cells are T-lymphocytes or T-cells for short. They have the T-cell receptors, complicated molecules, on the surface – which are able to recognize fragments of antigen as peptides bound in a certain way.

The particular cancer type that may have been hacked is called "B acute lymphoblastic leukemia". The cure seems both high-tech and simple. Patients' T-cells are taken out and their DNA is edited – they are being genetically modified. A new piece of "code" (gene) is being injected to them which makes these T-cells capable of recognizing the CD19 protein. That protein is found on the surface of B-cells, another type of white blood cells, and it exists in healthy humans, too. I guess that these T-cells can reproduce and do reproduce so you don't have to edit too many cells separately.

But I guess that if the T-cells are preprogrammed to go after the B-cells' neck, it influences primarily the pathologically multiplied cancer B-cells, not "all B-cells". If you understand how this point works, please let me know.

The T-cells have the power to "dictate" the cancerous B-cells to "unconvert" from the religion of cancer – I don't quite understand microscopically how this political influence of the T-cells works but it must surely be analogous to the relationships in the society. And if the mutated B-cells are "too radically converted", the edited T-cell may order the sick B-cell to commit suicide. Again, I don't quite understand why the rogue B-cell is obedient (can someone explain it?) but it apparently is. Even when cells become rogue, they still listen to some "masters" and the medical researchers' goal (or strategy that wasn't always obvious) is to declare themselves the masters of the cells.

(For readers at Harvard. I didn't mean "masters" which is a word discredited by slavery. I meant "senior Marxist comrades", just like the housemasters. Please edit the paragraphs above in your head accordingly.)

Genetic modifications are bound to achieve amazing things in coming years, decades, and the whole century. Some people have ethical problems with them. May I ask a specific question to these Luddites? Do you oppose a cure for leukemia?

I think that there's nothing wrong about curing leukemia – it's a win-win situation. It doesn't make people immortal – there are still many other ways to die. But it's a nasty disease and if it were gradually defeated, I think it would be great.

There may be similar discoveries and many other types of diseases will be mastered. The life expectancy is guaranteed to keep on growing. I think that societies should be ready for this fact because a longer life may be great – but it may also be a problem for the unprepared societies. The retirement age should be dynamically increasing along with the life expectancy or some arrangements should be made that make sure that there's enough money for the pensioners.

Congratulations to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

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