Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have exhibited that a microfluidic cell-squeezing device can be used to introduce antigens into the immune system's B cells, opening a new approach for the development and implementation of antigen-presenting vaccines.

Antigen presenting vaccines are produced by reprogramming the immune cells of a patient to combat invaders; this process gives potentials as treatment for diseases such as cancer. Some inefficiencies associated with these types of vaccine, however, have prevented its widespread use in clinics. The FDA has, in fact, only approved one therapy of this kind so far. A new breakthrough, however, could change this.

Publishing the results of their study in Scientific Reports, researchers have shown that although such vaccines are often made using dendritic cells, which have broad immune system functionality, B cells can also be engineered and used as alternative.

Dendritic cells pose some problems when they are utilized for cell-based vaccines and these include having a short life span. They do not also divide once activated and are relatively scant in the bloodstream. B cells, on the other hand, can proliferate once activated. They also abound in the bloodstream albeit they have more limited functionality.

Using the microfluidic device called CellSqueeze, the research team was able to find a work around to this problem by squeezing the B cells and antigens through channels on a chip with the pressure forcing the antigen and the immune cell to join.

Study lead author Gregory Szeto, from the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research of the MIT, said that his team wanted to eliminate a crucial barrier in using B cell as antigen-presenting cell population so they can complement and even replace dendritic cells.

The researchers likewise said they want to come up with therapies that involve taking out a person's own cells, telling these cells what to do and placing them back into the body to fight diseases.

Gail Bishop, from the University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine, said that the B cells' antigen-presenting capabilities tend to be underestimated but this appears to be changing positively.

"This new technical approach permits loading B cells effectively with virtually any antigen and has the additional benefit of targeting the antigens to the CD8 T-cell presentation pathway," Bishop said adding that this could facilitate the activation of the killer T cells that are desired in a number of clinical applications.

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