Engineering Regulatory T Cells As Living Drugs With Dr. Leonardo Ferreira

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March 7, 2022

For this week's episode of Teach Me in 10, we're joined by Dr. Leonardo Ferreira, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina and the Hollings Cancer Center. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is the most common form of diabetes in infants and adolescents. It occurs when the immune system targets the patient’s own insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells for destruction. Right now, the only cure for T1D is a pancreas or pancreatic islet transplant. Yet, this procedure requires life-long immunosuppression to prevent immune rejection and autoimmunity. What if we could instead re-educate the patient’s immune system to accept pancreatic islets? That's the current focus of Ferreira's research, in which he is exploring the use of regulatory T cells as living drugs to treat T1D. This approach is unique in that it focuses on the root cause of the disease, immune attack of pancreatic islets, by genetically engineering human regulatory T cells to induce tolerance to pancreatic islets. He believes this line of work will help realize the promise of immune therapy for T1D, and explains how in less than 10 minutes.

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