Developing the next generation of therapeutic regulatory T cells using CRISPR/Cas9

The immune system is critical for fighting infections but left unchecked, can attack healthy tissues resulting in autoimmunity or transplant rejection. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are the immune cells responsible for controlling immune responses, so Treg transfusions are being investigated as treatments for these conditions. Unlike immunosuppressive drugs, Tregs are customisable and can have long-lasting effects.

Tailoring Tregs to treat specific diseases typically involves genetically modifying the cells. One approach involves incorporating synthetic proteins called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to help the Tregs migrate to where they are required in the body and specifically suppress harmful targets. I will build on this approach and explore the potential of using novel precise gene editing techniques (CRISPR) to maximise the survival and function of CAR Tregs following infusion.

This work will inform ongoing clinical studies that are investigating CAR Treg therapy in kidney transplantation, as well as future studies with other diseases. Fine-tuning personalised Treg therapy is key for its wide-scale implementation and potential to transform the life quality of autoimmune disease patients and transplant recipients.