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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Univercell Builder

Published April 5, 2013 4:37 PM by Michael Jones

The introduction of new drugs that combat disease and infection at the genetic level has been a landmark breakthrough, both for laboratory science as well as for patient treatment plans. Cell-based therapeutics, on the other hand, stand to become influential in the coming years. A recent story from Newswise reported cell therapy as the next step in patient treatment, citing an article from Science Translational Medicine, in which it was referred to as the “third pillar of medicine.”

“Today, biomedical science sits on the cusp of a revolution,” said Wendell Kim, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, professor and one of the Science Translational Medicine article authors. “The use of human and microbial cells as therapeutic entities.”

The Newswise story noted on the potential applications of cell therapy -- from work in cancer to uses to “control weight gain.” The end goal being to manufacture or engineer specialized cells that can be predicted and applied to treatment as appropriate, Newswise explained how “scientists want to be able to reliably control many aspects of cells.” These include how the cells interact and communicate, how they move to focus on various parts of the body, when they “activate” and “die” according to programming as well as “population growth,” how they produce “small therapeutic molecules” and how they make decisions to best fight disease.

“If small molecules and biologics are tools, then cells are carpenters,” said Michael Fischbach, PhD, an assistant professor of UCSF’s School of Pharmacy. “And architects and engineers as well.”

Having already made several breakthroughs, Cell Therapy has been most notable in procedures like fecal transplants and the treatment of leukemia. The Newswise story described cells as “adaptable” and, thus, better suited for utilization in therapies because, unlike drugs, cellular reactions can vary. Despite remaining in the early stages of use and experimentation, the potential impact of Cellular Therapies could change the scope of treatment for both the physicians and clinical laboratories across the board on the broad scale of the healthcare industry. 

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