During the study, the researchers started with 250,000 to 500,000 Tregs harvested from umbilical cord blood using a device called a fluorescent-activated cell sorter. Using microbeads that activate the cells and provide growth signals, the researchers successfully expanded the number of Tregs to a median yield of 1.26 billion cells. The researchers don’t yet know exactly how many Tregs are needed to be effective in humans, but they said their results suggest that cryogenically preserved Tregs should be further tested as a potential treatment for Type 1 diabetes and other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For parents, storing their newborn baby’s umbilical cord blood is a way to preserve potentially lifesaving cells. Now, a group of University of Florida Health researchers has found a way to expand and preserve certain cord-blood cells as a potential treatment for Type 1 diabetes.
“This is a really an important step in having the potential for safely treating patients with their own cells,” Brusko said.
Having a large, pure population of naïve Tregs that can be preserved and later multiplied in the laboratory is a crucial step toward the ultimate goal of stopping Type 1 diabetes in its early stages, said Todd M. Brusko, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine. The findings were published recently in the journal Molecular Therapy.
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The findings involve thymic regulatory T cells, a type of white blood cell that modulates the immune system and prevents autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes. The finding — showing that so-called Tregs can be frozen at birth and later multiplied in a laboratory — has important implications for Type 1 diabetes patients, researchers said. Harvesting Tregs from umbilical cord blood is safer, more efficient and potentially more effective than taking the cells from blood that circulates through the body, researchers said. These cells existed before the disease was triggered and would not be skewed by its chronic autoimmune attack.
In the present research, Brusko credited his laboratory manager, Howard Seay, M.Sc., with developing the procedures that allowed the Treg populations to be expanded over a 16-day period. The studies were done in collaboration with Jeffrey Bluestone, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.