How to biohack your cells to fight cancer – Greg Foot

How to biohack your cells to fight cancer – Greg Foot


Ok,
so you, are a 4 billion year old
meat robot. Yeah, you heard me right. In fact, as you’re made of
30-ish trillion cells, and each of those have their own task, you’re a robot made of trillions
of mini robots- you are a mega-meat-bot! And your mission, for the past 4 billion
years or so- and for as long as you keep
playing this game of life- is to safeguard the code. To duplicate it.
To pass it on. The thing is, you’re rubbish at
copying your own code. Every time it’s copied, errors crop up. Not good when an error makes
a robot worse at surviving, but sometimes a mistake
helps them survive… and they pass that glitch in the code on- that’s evolution in a nutshell, right? Which means you’re not the result
of some fancy design, I’m afraid. You’re a result of billions of
years of bad copies. Go you. Another reason you’re not totally awesome is because that megabot of yours
often breaks down. Fortunately, cardiologists, immunologists,
microbiologists- all the “ists”- have spent centuries figuring out
our sensors and wiring so if something does go wrong,
they can usually fix it. Where they struggle, though, is when
the machinery turns on itself- when a copying error leads a cell
to start dividing uncontrollably, to grow and multiply into a tumor. That’s cancer. And sadly, even with the might
of our modern medicine, some cancers evade treatment. But this is where a new band of
biologists step into the story: The “Synthetic Biologists.” These biohackers are mashing up science,
medicine and engineering to rewrite the code and fix
the un-fixable. Biohackers are going into a
patient’s genetic code and reprogramming their own immune system to recognize cancer cells
and destroy them. It’s called CAR T-cell therapy,
and it’s awesome. See, you’re constantly under
attack by pathogens- single-celled bacteria, viruses and fungi. Despite deciding, back in the day, to stay solo and not ‘avengers assemble’
like you did, those pathogens see you, in all
your mega-meat-bot glory, as a fortress ripe for the plundering. Thankfully, you’ve got a security team
in place to battle these invaders- your immune system- and some of it’s top guards are
your white blood cells. They trawl the darkness
that is your inner space, checking the IDs of any cells they pass… although they’re not name badges, but rather protein fragments on
the cell’s surface called antigens. There are two types of these guards:
T-cells and B-cells. T-cells check those antigen IDs
using special claws- receptors that lock with a
particular antigen. If they find a match, they attach and
they release toxic chemicals that burst open the
invading cell’s membrane. Their B-cell workmates create antibodies- loads of small proteins, little claws that latch perfectly onto
a particular antigen, marking them for destruction. These two comrades have got your back and your immune system is brilliant at
spotting and fighting pathogens that invade from outside. However, they’re not so good at spotting your
own cells that have gone rogue. The antigens on cancerous cells
don’t look weird, they look a lot like your own cells, and the T’s and B’s aren’t
programmed to attack them. The usual way to deal with cancer is
to try to cut the tumor out, or turn to radiotherapy and
then chemotherapy to destroy or block the
growth of cancer cells, but if it’s a blood cancer, if it’s
floating around your whole body, you can’t do that. And if the blood cancer actually starts in
your white blood cells- those key guards in your immune system- you’ll really struggle to spot it. That’s the case with acute
lymphoblastic leukemia, and that’s where CAR T-cell therapy
is kicking butt. The biohackers are reprogramming a
patient’s own immune system to recognize particular antigens- those
particular protein fragments- on the cancer cells. To do it, you first need millions
of a patient’s T-cells Then, to get a T-cell to do
something different, you need to replace its normal
code with something new, something you’ve designed. What synthetic biologists can now do
with DNA is super cool- they use a computer to put together
their own sequences of bases- the chemical letters that spell
out the DNA- then they model what that new genetic
code will do on a computer and then make those sequences
on a DNA printer- yeah, that’s a thing!- printing not with ink, or with a plastic
polymer like in a 3D printer, but with those fundamental
building blocks of life, with those A’s and C’s and T’s and G’s. The new code they designed for a
T-cell has 3 key instructions: 1. It tells it how to recognize
and kill a cancer cell. More specifically, how to modify an antibody- what the B-cells make to latch
onto a target antigen. The antibody is modified to
make a new receptor that can detect the particular antigens
on the specific cancer. 2. It tells it to make copies of itself
when it finds that cancer cell and 3. It tells it to survive
in the patient’s body. To get this new code into
the patient’s T-cells, you use a vector- it’s something that will easily
infect the T-cell and carry that bespoke DNA in with it. And voila!
One CAR T-cell. The name comes from a fire-breathing
monster from Ancient Greece, that had a lion’s head, a goat’s
body and a serpent’s tail. It was called “Chimera”-
a name that has now come to be used for something that contains two or
more different types of tissues or cells. As this newly engineered cell’s genetic
code is part T-cell, part antibody, it’s a “C”himera and it goes in search
of the cancer’s “A”ntigen using its new “R”eceptor. Before you put the multiplied up
T-cells back into the patient, you give them a mild dose of chemotherapy
to wipe their existing T-cells. Then you simply reinsert the
now modified T-cells- the CAR T-cells- and they follow their normal DNA
programming to move and search. However, thanks to their new
butt-kicking code, they’ve changed what they’re looking for: they’re now on a mission to find the
cancerous cells and destroy them. Unlike conventional chemical-based drugs that get used up or excreted from
the body pretty quickly, CAR T-cells are living drugs that stay in
the patient’s bloodstream for years. That’s a huge pro. The flip side is that they’re expensive- each CAR T-cell treatment is
bespoke to the patient- and it’s more difficult to get them to
work with common cancers like breast or lung, because you need a
specific antigen on the cancer cells for the CAR T-cell to target- and it’s much easier to find
that in blood cancers. It’s still early days, though, and there’s an exciting
future for CAR T-cell therapy. Researchers like Dr. Martin Pule
and his team at UCL, are working on improving the leukemia
and lymphoma treatments even further, and there’s recently been some
promising work on solid cancers. Thanks to CAR T-cell therapy, the survival rate for B acute
lymphoblastic leukemia has improved hugely -nearly all patients go into remission- which means that leukemia cannot
be detected anymore- and most patients stay in remission. Biohacking is here, and it can reprogram your own
genetic code to enable your mega-meat-bot to do things it’s never been
able to do before!

100 Replies to “How to biohack your cells to fight cancer – Greg Foot”

  1. 1:05 when her leg falls it says shimatta (japanese for "damn it"). The video is not completely accurate though. Even under normal circumstances, the lymphocytes can recognize and destroy cancer cells, because they start producing abnormal proteins. Cancer can still develop though, because lymphocytes don't always find the cells in time, considering they don't know where to look.

  2. Evolution is just Bob Ross. Happy little accidents.

    Or you could say that there are no bad ideas, only ideas that can go horribly wrong.

  3. I love this video so much! I loved how the topic was presented like a movie— the animation fun and sorta appropriate for how the topic is told, and with the matching narration it just felt more like a riveting story hahahah.

  4. Why not identify the oncogenes in cancer cells that produce cancer cell's antigen and then transfer the gene to a bacterium through DNA Recombinant tech. So that the bacterium will produce cancer antigen or proteins or cancer anitgen epitopes
    And then infect the cancer patient with the bacteria so that immune cells identify them with the bacteria and learn to respond to the antigen thus they learn about cancer cells through bacteria
    Kinda like streptococcus induced Rheumatism

  5. This is great and all, but… if there isn’t anything that ends the life of a human, overpopulation is going to be a even bigger issue.

  6. When your team has a hacker and you want a normal game but friendly fire is disabled (cancer in a nutshell)

  7. How can a long and memory consuming immunology lesson get cooler,
    this video shows that it apparently can be much cooler and enjoyable.

  8. Informative and accessible, but when you get to 'expensive' and 'bespoke' you realise this TedTalk has a misleading title – and so probably not helpful to someone diagnosed with cancer.

  9. Agreed with many people here. I've learned so much from watching countless Ted ed and kurzgesagt educational shorts, but this one is by far the most well animated, most well told story, and mind blowing. Good luck to the animators ever topping this one.

  10. this video is real cool. But, it makes cancer treatment look super simple, when really, it isn't. Still, really cool video.

  11. You have a fatal flaw in your opening argument. Robots (always programmed by someone, btw) have some sort of decision making capacity. It may be small, as in the case of a roomba, or large like with AI. But they always make decisions between actions, based on their programming.

    On the other hand, evolution has NO decision making capacity. If it works, it is by chance. And mutations 99% of the time LOSE information, not gain it. And they are also almost always harmful. This intro doesn't make sense. Sorry.

  12. 'Your not the result of a fancy design, your the result of millions of bad copies' que religious debate

  13. Where is the practise being done ? Can I get more knowledge about this ? I am interested to know more about them.

  14. Thank you to all the researchers who are helping to keep many people alive, thank you, and Ted ed, you did a great job on this video, the facts and animation.

  15. Bruh we have evolved not due to errors but evolutionary adaptations because Jehovah created things to be like that

  16. Greg this was flipping amazing. I watch so many Ted Ed videos and this was the best by a mile. Love that you mentioned cardiologists first hehe😂 More importantly UCL as well! Woohoo! Animation was way too good for an educational video, would've been at home in a Netflix anime series. Really really fantastic video.

  17. im a huge hge fan of teded and ive nearly watched every vids but DAYUM (for me) this is the best animated video tedex has uploaded so far!!!

  18. It’s amazing how far humans have come from the early days of philosophy 😮 Except now, one of its branches is called science 🙂

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