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By reprogramming cells from the immune system, biomedical engineers could treat and cure diseases and conditions such as cancer, HIV, and multiple sclerosis. This technology could also help develop vaccines and healing treatments for inflammation, wounds, and tissue regeneration without stem cells.

Biomedical engineers are continually being challenged by complex systems such as the human immune system. While researchers may tackle this with the development of new biomedical devices, biomaterials, or any technology intended for use within the human body; however, it is also possible and essential to engage with bioengineering techniques to develop new treatments and tools to understand, control, and exploit the immune system as a means to treat conditions and diseases.

New vaccines and healing technologies for wounds, inflammation, or even cancer and tissue regeneration are some of the possibilities explored by researchers. One of the latest breakthroughs in the field was the discovery of killer T cells that are programmed to wipe out cancer. This achievement of immune system engineering was so revolutionary because it could treat not only cancer but also multiple sclerosis and HIV.

With the discovery of gene editing techniques such as TALENs and crispr, startups have also used the same premise to engineer T-cell-based therapeutics to autonomously target conditions and diseases on a cellular level. This discovery is so essential because an immune cell is meant to communicate with other cells, deliver substances, and change what happens in a microenvironment. At the same time, they retain memory about the organism and can multiply among themselves. Synthetic immunology, which has only been tested on mice, is suggesting a new method of treatment that tackles specific search-and-kill behaviors when these engineered immune cells deliver specific drugs in an organism.

Future Perspectives
While immune engineering is currently focused on treating conditions such as cancer, the field does not need to limit itself to this specific disease. The expectation is that HIV would also be a strong candidate to be targeted by this solution, both in terms of treatment and the possibility of being cured. However, research is continuing on more improved approaches because of the very specifics of HIV: since the virus hides in the body even after treatment, patients must take antiretroviral drugs for the rest of their lives. Immune engineering could change this scenario by programming cells that could result in a one-time treatment capable of eliminating the virus once and for all.

Immune Engineering

KEY TRENDS

Synthetic Biological Engineering