Engineering the design of regulatory T cell therapy in transplantation

Transplantation is a cure for end stage organ failure, but a successful transplant requires a life-long use of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent organ rejection. The resulting lower immunity leaves patients in a complex medical condition because increases the risk for infections and cancer.

A specific type of immune cell, called regulatory T cells (Tregs), moderates the reactivity of the immune system and favours the transplanted organ acceptance. However, to maximize the use of Tregs as therapy, Tregs need to specifically recognize proteins on donor organs. A method to engineering Tregs to be specific to donor-organ is introducing a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). However, currently available CARs may not work properly in Tregs and in a transplantation context.

This project aims to build this method by using different gene engineering strategies to maximize the success, safety and applicability of this technology in order to reduce the need of immunosuppressive drugs. The fine-tuning of Treg-based therapies for their use in transplantation could have important benefits to the health and life quality of persons with a transplanted organ, and could mean a huge advance in regenerative and personalized medicine.