Professor Paul Fairchild, University of Oxford
Professor Yair Reisner, Weizmann Institute of Science
Professor Fairchild and Professor Reisner explored how the immune system may affect the success of regenerative medicine therapies. When an organ or cells are transplanted from one individual into another, the body usually rejects them because they are recognised as 'foreign' by the immune system. By contrast, regenerative medicine therapies that are tailored to the patient are not expected to trigger rejection. This is because the cells are 'self' - they have been grown from cells taken from the patient. In this process, patient cells grown in the lab are turned into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a stem cell that can be directed to specialise into all cell types for transplantation. Surprisingly, recent reports suggested that the body still rejects these 'self' cells when transplanted. The Fairchild and Reisner groups investigated these findings and found that 'self' cells derived from iPSCs were not compromised by the immune system when they were transplanted back into a mouse. This shows that tailored regenerative medicine therapies are still a promising approach to repairing and replacing tissue.
The groups also looked at how they might be able to manipulate the immune response using specialised immune cells called dendritic cells, which can be generated from lab-grown iPSCs. These help to set the correct balance between tolerating or attacking 'foreign' cells and could potentially be used to treat diseases like cancer and autoimmune disease. The experiments carried out by the groups suggested that a particular subset of dendritic cells could be used to regulate the immune system in regenerative medicine therapies.