Leveraging cancer immunotherapy technologies to develop potential variant proof-of-concept treatments for COVID-19

Leveraging cancer immunotherapy technologies to develop potential variant proof-of-concept treatments for COVID-19

Derya Unutmaz in his lab at the Jackson Laboratory. Credit: Tiffany Läufer

Millions have died from COVID-19 infection and millions more are experiencing the chronic condition, Long COVID, making the discovery of practical, accessible and potent SARS-CoV-2 prevention and COVID-19 treatments imperative.

At the nonprofit Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, Derya Unutmaz, MD, and his team have adapted a standard cancer treatment technique, CAR T cell therapy, for the purpose of eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The study, which was published in Clinical and translational immunologypresents several immune-based approaches to explore the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

The first immunotherapy approach targets the top protein present on SARS-CoV-2 and its receptor on the host cell, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The spike protein is the molecule on the surface of the virus responsible for infecting healthy host cells. The protein enters the cell through the ACE2 receptor, which allows the viral RNA to begin its takeover. In the Unutmaz study, T cells were engineered with anti-spike and anti-ACE2 CAR-T cells to target either the spike protein or the ACE2 receptor, with high specificity and efficiency across various infected cell types.

The second immunotherapy approach provides an antibody-based way to prevent COVID-19 infection. T cells were engineered with a bispecific antibody fused to ACE2 to activate the patient’s own T cells to destroy infected cells displaying the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein on their surface. Rather than having cells, modified outside the body, kill infected cells, the ACE2 bispecific therapy activates the healthy T cells within the individual to target Spike+ cells after infection.

Unlike most current therapeutics, ACE2-bispecifically engineered cells utilize the ACE2 receptor to target different expressions of the Spike protein in all SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Delta, Omicron, and others. The ACE2 bispecific therapy may therefore provide more efficient elimination of variants with more potent ACE2 binding. It can also act as a decoy to block viral entry into cells, offering a potential preventive strategy.

Both the proposed COVID-19 CAR-T cells and ACE2 bispecific therapies offer promising potential strategies for future treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

More information:
Mikail Dogan et al., Targeting SARS-CoV-2 infection with CAR-T-like bispecific T cells containing ACE2, Clinical and translational immunology (2022). DOI: 10.1002/cti2.1421

Provided by Jackson Laboratory

Quotation: Capitalizing on cancer immunotherapy techniques to develop potential aberrant treatment for COVID-19 (2022, November 11) retrieved November 11, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-11-capitalizing-cancer-immunotherapy-techniques-potential .html

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