New Research Targets Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Using Deep Sea Creatures

Determining whether a cancer treatment is having the desired effect can be a tricky science. New research by a team from the Keck School of Medicine of USC leverages characteristics of deep sea animals. Known as the Matador assay, the new method is being tested on chronic myelogenous leukemia and other cancer cells. Keep reading to learn more about this enlightening development, or find the original story here.

Living in the darkest parts of the ocean, many deep sea creatures possess a characteristic called bioluminescence. The bodies of these creatures contain natural enzymes causing them to glow. In a new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, a team from the Keck School of Medicine of USC proposed a method of using luminescent enzymes to track the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

When it comes to cancer treatment, immunotherapy is an area of research ripe with promise. Immunotherapy is, however, difficult to test.

The current evaluation is based upon radioactive chromium. It is both an expensive and intricate process. Furthermore, radioactive chromium assay requires special methods to dispose of the materials used in testing. Other forms of testing do not allow scientists to screen quickly enough to find the best results.

With this in mind, the team from the Keck School determined to find a cost effective, simple, and accurate test to observe immunotherapies.

The key existed in the enzymes responsible for glowing deep sea creatures.

These enzymes are called luciferases. In pursuit greatest visibility, the group selected species of small crustaceans and deep sea shrimp based on their especially bright glow. The test utilizing these luciferases became known as the Matador assay.

The Matador assay relies on bioluminescent enzymes getting lodged inside targeted cells. When the cells die, the luciferases emerge. This results in an observable glow. The glow can then be measured and recorded with a luminometer.

Several different types of cancer were selected to test the Matador assay. Chronic myelogenous leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, Burkitt’s lymphoma and solid tumors made up a notable portion of the test group. Each cancer was treated with a number of different immunotherapies. Results of the tests were encouraging. The Matador assay exhibited such sensitivity that it was able to detect the death of even a single cell. This blows all other tests out of the water.

A lab team led by Preet M. Chaudhary, MD, PhD, has now developed over 75 cancer cell lines that express the bioluminescent enzymes. Their use in the Matador assay has allowed the development of CAR-T cells used in a form of immunotherapy.

The Matador assay seems to be a success in every facet. It’s quick, comparatively cheap, and be performed in such a way that it saves time and materials over other testing methods. The study reports that the Matador assay can detect cell death in times as sort as half an hour. This leads to faster reaction times, and greater accuracy for patients receiving immunotherapy treatments.

Hopes are high for the Matador assay. It has the potential to change biomedical research, cellular therapy manufacturing, and may even provide a way to measure toxins in the environment.


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