Customizing CRISPR for each patient, making science movies more accurate, and how killer T cells learn to leave their home base.

Scientists discover possible master switch for programming cancer immunotherapy

(Scripps, 12/11/2017)

During infection or tumor growth, a type of specialized white blood cell called CD8+ T cells rapidly multiply within the spleen and lymph nodes and acquire the ability to kill diseased cells. Some of these killer T cells then migrate where required to vanquish the germs or cancers. But how do killer T cells “learn” to leave their home base and amass within specific tissues like the skin, gut, and lung, or solid tumors? Finding the factors that cause T cells to function beyond the lymphoid system and in sites of infection or cancer has proven a tough challenge, but it’s essential for developing cancer-fighting immunotherapy strategies. Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute and the University of California, San Diego the discovery that a protein called “Runx3” programs killer T cells to establish residence in tumors and infection sites.

A new study suggests CRISPR gene editing therapies should be customized for each patient

(CIRM, 12/12/2017, Todd Dubnicoff)

A study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests a note of caution when using CRISPR to repair a genetic mutation. Scientists report that the natural genetic variability that is found when comparing the DNA sequences of individuals has the potential to negatively impact the effectiveness of a CRISPR-based treatment and in some cases, could lead to dangerous side effects. As a result, the research team – a collaboration between Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Montreal – recommend that therapy products using CRISPR should be customized to take into account the genetic variation between patients.

Science Speed-Dating Aims to Boost Accuracy in TV And Film

(NPR, 12/14/2017, Barbara J. King)

A project run by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) called the Science & Entertainment Exchange aims to ensure that science “stinkers” become a thing of the past in films, TV shows, and video games. Scientists had seven minutes to explain their research to seven different groups of people from the entertainment industry (plus some science-interested members of the public) waited. Scientists were encouraged to bring a prop they could carry in their hands, but no Powerpoint slides or video clips were allowed. The ultimate prize? A chance to share your expertise in television and movies, as was the case with a NASA Jet Propulsion engineer who did such a good job impressing his groups that he landed a consultant’s spot on Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D.



—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola