09 July 2024

Engineered human plasma B cells have been used successfully for the first time to treat leukaemia in an animal model, it has been announced.

Researchers said it was a “key step” in developing the technology – which, it is hoped, will improve treatment for cancers, autoimmune disorders and protein deficiency disorders, such as haemophilia.

The treatment has been tested on laboratory animals with leukaemia in a proof-of-concept study, reported last week in the journal Molecular Therapy. Developers believe it could improve delivery of existing antibody drugs, sparing patients from intensive treatments.

The cells were engineered to produce anti-CD19 bispecific antibodies, creating a treatment similar to blinatumomab. The developers believe the technique could increase the functional half-life of these bispecific drugs.

Researcher Dr Richard James, of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Washington, USA, said: “Bispecific non-immunoglobulin therapies pose stability challenges in patients, necessitating three courses of 20-day steady-state infusion. Enhanced drug delivery methods for bispecific antibodies like blinatumomab could improve patient adherence and bolster treatment efficacy.

“We think that the first application of engineered plasma B cells will be to produce drugs that are difficult for patients to use. In this study, we wanted to demonstrate proof of concept and efficacy for engineered B cell therapies.

“These cells effectively eliminated tumours to a comparable extent as the clinical drug. The key takeaway is that engineered plasma B cells can provide long-lasting drug production in vivo.”


Hill TF, Narvekar P, Asher GD, Edelstein JN, Camp ND, Grimm A, Thomas KR, Leiken MD, Molloy KM, Cook PJ, Arlauckas SP, Morgan RA, Tasian SK, Rawlings DJ, James RG. (2024) “Human plasma cells engineered to secrete bispecifics drive effective in vivo leukemia killing.” Molecular Therapy, 2 July 2024, doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2024.06.004

Link: https://www.cell.com/molecular-therapy/fulltext/S1525-0016(24)00386-1

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