Cellular Gift Exchange

Everyone loves a wrapped gift, but what about your cells?


This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.


When germs invade your body, your immune cells are the first lines of defense. But, they can overreact and damage YOUR OWN body. Drug therapies can suppress this autoimmune activity, but have risky side effects. How can we better target these trigger-happy immune cells?


Neha Kapate and team at Harvard University present: cellular backpacks.


They packed therapeutic molecules into tiny packages that stick to cell surfaces like  backpacks. Neighboring immune cells could then exchange these molecules like regifting presents. To test this, researchers injected backpack-carrying immune cells into mice experiencing autoimmune damage.


Results? Backpack-carrying cells helped cool down hyperactive immune cells. These “backpacks” even helped host cells repair the tissue damage! The mice experienced reduced inflammation and lessened disease symptoms! 


Researchers hope to explore these cellular backpacks as targeted therapeutics for autoimmune conditions.


Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! (Best of all: no hiking!)


Kapate N., Dunne M., Kumbhojkar N., Mitragotri S. A backpack-based myeloid cell therapy for multiple sclerosis. PNAS 120, 17 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2221535120