The beauty of science is that you’re always discovering new things. Life is like an onion. Every time you think you’ve peeled the last layer, there’s another. A recent scientific breakthrough uncovered a new immune cell that scientists were previously unaware of. This new immune cell, known as MC.7.G5, targets multiple types of cancers, including prostate, breast, and lung. Let’s take a look at this breakthrough new immune cell and its potential in curing cancer.
New Immune Cell Discovered with CRISPR
Cardiff University scientists were tinkering around with ways to use CRISPR–Cas9 to fight cancer. CRISPR–Cas9 is a form of genome-editing. It uses RNA, which are messengers that carry out instructions from DNA.
RNA is combined with an enzyme, Cas9. The RNA will guide Cas9 through DNA. From there, Cas9 will make an incision in the helix. Naturally, cells will then try to repair the DNA. That’s where scientists intervene and change the genetic code .
Immune Cell and MR1 Detection
While experimenting, Cardiff University scientists noticed something unique about a specific T-cell in the blood . This immune cell has a receptor that detects a gene protein known as major histocompatibility complex, class I-related protein (MR1). MR1 draws attention of the immune system to cells that have abnormal metabolic rate.
The discovery of MC.7.G5 was exciting for scientist Garry Dolton . He was one of the many researchers using CRISPR for other purposes that day. Dolton spoke about the new immune cell discovery to BBC.
Garry Dolton stated,
“We are the first to describe a T-cell that finds MR1 in cancer cells – that hasn’t been done before, this is the first of its kind.”– Garry Dolton to BBC
MR1 is present on all cells. Scientists believe that it can help let the immune system know when a cell becomes cancerous. This detection can prevent natural killer cells (NK cells) from becoming suspicious and attacking healthy immune cells.
Typically, MR1 is detected thanks to stomach bacteria that consume B-Vitamins. Their metabolites are antigens that bind to MR1. Mucosal-associated invariant T-cells (MAIT) of the innate immune system realize this, ultimately unveiling cancer cells. The discovery of this new immune cell performing a similar task can potentially be a game-changer in cancer treatment.
How New Immune Cell Might Be Able to Help Cancer Treatment
T-Cell therapy for cancer isn’t a new discovery. It’s been happening for quite a while. Most notably, chimeric antigen receptor (C-ART) therapy has given hope for using immune cells to cure cancer . This new immune cell discovery gives further hope.
Cardiff University researchers noted that this immune cell detected the MR1 receptors in cancerous cells regardless of beneficial stomach bacteria being present. Therefore, this new immune cell doesn’t just rely on healthy bacteria to discover MR1. It goes into business for itself.
Typically, genetic proteins known as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) will detect cancerous cells. Some HLA cells (class 1) will bind to proteins in cancerous tissues. They’ll then present the potentially dangerous cell to CD8+ T cells.
These helper cells of the immune system kill infected cells . Scientists noted that MC.7.G5 killed cancer cells without the help of HLA.
Benefits of New Immune Cell for Cancer
The knowledge of a new immune cell is still in its early stages. Researchers need to conduct a lot more studies. For instance, they are currently stumped as to how this new immune cell detected MR1. With that being said, scientists are hopeful for a breakthrough in cancer research with the discovery of this new immune cell.
Cardiff University scientists concluded,
“MC.7.G5 killed a range of established (long-term culture) and primary cancer cell lines of different origin. Flow-based killing assay for 48–72h at a T-cell to target cell ratio of 5:1. Data combined from different experiments. Performed in triplicate.”– Nature Immunology
They found that this new immune cell killed around 95% of cancer cells related to:
- Skin (melanomas)
In vivo studies also showed that MC.7.G5 also controlled the spreading of Jurkat leukemia cells. Although the new immune cell didn’t eradicate the disease, this discovery also gives hope for leukemia cancer treatment. It may buy some people extra time while scientists still work towards a cure for cancer.
How New Immune Cell Might Be Used for Cancer Cure
Scientists hope that this new immune cell can be used in many of the same ways that C-ART therapy is. They want to extract healthy T-cells from a person’s body. Then, the T-cells will be genetically modified to have the same receptor as MC.7.G5.
Then, scientists would grow a litany of these cells in a lab to transfer these new immune cells into the patient. Hopefully, the cells will communicate with these special MR1-seeking receptors and eradicate the cancer cells.
Improving Gut Health for Cancer Prevention
70% to 80% of immune cells derive from your gut . Therefore, a robust immune system depends on a healthy microbiome. Furthermore, an unhealthy gut sparks inflammation. Inflammation is caused by our immune cells. So, ruining your gut biome overworks your immune cells, ultimately suppressing your immune system.
When our immune system gets out of whack, we are more prone to bacterial and viral infections. These instances can do a number on healthy cells within our system. We become vulnerable to free radical growth. Ultimately, poor gut health can lead to the development of cancerous cells.
Improving your gut health may also improve your chances of the immune system detecting cancerous growth. As we noted, metabolites of bacteria using B-Vitamins can cause TLR (toll-like receptor) signaling of MR1 . They do this by activating mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells .
Therefore, having a diverse gut biome may improve the communication between cells. You’ll have beneficial stomach bacteria that can create more metabolites that open lines of communication.
 “What Are Genome Editing and CRISPR-Cas9? – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 21 Jan. 2020, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/genomicresearch/genomeediting.
 Crowther, Michael D., and Gary Dolton. “Genome-Wide CRISPR–Cas9 Screening Reveals Ubiquitous TCell Cancer Targeting via the Monomorphic MHC Class I-Related Protein MR1.” Nature Immunology , Nature Immunology Vol. 21, Feb. 2020, www.nature.com/articles/s41590-019-0578-8.
 Gallagher, James. “Immune Discovery ‘May Treat All Cancer’.” BBC News, BBC, 20 Jan. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/health-51182451.
 “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.” National Cancer Institute, 3 Feb. 2020, www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/car-t-cell-therapy.
 Reporter, Staff. “Immunotherapy Response Influenced by Cancer Patients’ HLA Genotypes.” GenomeWeb, 7 Dec. 2017, www.genomeweb.com/cancer/immunotherapy-response-influenced-cancer-patients-hla-genotypes#.XjgpEWhKhdo.
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 Park, Daeui, et al. “Differences in the Molecular Signatures of Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells and Conventional T Cells.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 8 May 2019, www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-43578-9.
 Tastan, Cihan, et al. “Tuning of Human MAIT Cell Activation by Commensal Bacteria Species and MR1-Dependent T-Cell Presentation.” Mucosal Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30115998.