Yifei Hu helps develop reagent to improve CAR T-cell therapy

Yifei Hu

Over the past five years, a type of cancer treatment called CAR T-cell therapy has given some patients hope for remission. This technique adds a gene—called a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR—to a patient’s immune cells, which helps these cells find and attack cancers.

Researchers at University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and the David and Etta Jonas Center for Cellular Therapy at UChicago Medicine have developed a new reagent that works even better at detecting multiple kinds of CARs. The result could lead to better diagnostics and ultimately improved therapies for patients.

The research, led by graduate student Yifei Hu (ISTP - Biochemistry ) in Professor Jun Huang’s lab, was published in the journal Matter. The study resulted from a collaboration between the labs of Huang (Cancer Biology, Immunology) and Professor Justin Kline (Cancer Biology, Immunology). “We want to find some direction to enhance CAR T-cell therapy in the future,” Hu said. “Our ultimate goal is to try to make CAR T cells work even better in patients.”

Measuring CAR T-cells can be difficult. Some of these cells have a naturally lower CAR expression, while others decrease their CAR expression over time. Meanwhile, currently the mixtures used, called reagents, can be expensive and unstable.

Hu and other members of the Huang and Kline Labs designed new reagents that used a different approach: antigen multimers, proteins that enable highly specific, sensitive, and precise CAR detection at a much lower cost. The reagent can detect multiple different CAR molecules, and it can even detect T-cells that have decreased CAR expression.

Read the full story "UChicago Medicine, Pritzker Molecular Engineering study could improve CAR T-cell therapy" published on January 19, 2022.

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