Skip to main content

Artificial organ may help patients form the cancer-fighting cells they need

scientists bionic thymus cancer fighting cells 12740372 l
Alexey Romanenko/123RF
With cancer being the horrendous disease that it is, we’re all for any new research that suggests how we might combat it. If said research happens to involve an artificial organ, which can be described as a “bionic thymus” — well, all the better.

That’s exactly what researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have been working to develop. They’ve managed to use an artificial thymus to transform blood stem cells into T cells, the white blood cells that are used to help our immune system get their fight on.

“T cells are the key players that fight infections and cancer, and in the past few years there’s been huge interest — and success — in taking T cells from cancer patients and genetically engineering them to target their cancer,” Dr. Christopher Seet, a clinical instructor in Hematology-Oncology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, told Digital Trends. “These T cell therapies have shown remarkable results in several types of cancer, but still rely on collecting T cells from each patient, as using someone else’s T cells would result in an attack on the patient’s healthy tissue due to a ‘tissue mismatch.’ This obviously makes individualized T cells therapies difficult and time-consuming to produce.”

Normally, T cells are made in the thymus through a long and incredibly complex complex biological process. What the team in the UCLA study demonstrate is a way of taking human blood stem cells, the same type of cells commonly used in bone marrow transplants, and turning them into fully-functioning T cells entirely in the lab. This involves putting the blood stem cells into an “artificial thymic organoid” (ATO), a tiny 3D organ-like structure which grows in a dish and instructs blood stem cells to become T cells.

“We then added in a gene for a tumor-targeting T cell receptor to the blood stem cells, and showed that when put through the same ATO system, all the T cells coming out were now specifically targeted to tumor cells,” Seet continued. “Not only that, but they had also shut off expression of normal T cell receptors, which are what cause tissue mismatch — meaning that these T cells can potentially be given to any patient without attacking healthy tissue.”

While there’s still more work to be done before this can be used as a routine tool in oncology wards around the country, Seet said that it’s promising because of what it suggests about possible customized cancer treatment.

“We’re excited that this method potentially shows a way to make ‘off-the-shelf’ T cell therapies for cancer that can be given to anyone who needs them,” he said.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Apple’s new Seattle campus may mean big things for Siri, artificial intelligence
Tim Cook WWDC 2019

It sure looks like Apple has big plans for Siri.

Apple plans to hire 2,000 more employees for a new Seattle campus, the company announced Monday. A significant number of those jobs look like they're focused on improving Siri and developing more advanced artificial intelligence.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more