The German Center for Lung Research (DZL) will receive funding through the "Innovation Fund" of the German Centers for Health Research (DZG). The funded project "Cell type specific targeting for future in vivo delivery in cell & gene therapy" is led by Prof. Dr. Nico Lachmann, from the DZL's BREATH site, and Prof. Dr. Soni Savai Pullamsetti from the University of Giessen and Marburg Lung Center (UGMLC).
The six German Centers for Health Research (DZG) were founded by the German government to advance research into the major common diseases of diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, infectious and lung diseases. To further strengthen the interdisciplinary networks between the individual centers, the DZG Innovation Fund (DZGIF) was established. A project team from no less than 5 of the 6 DZG was able to secure funding in the first round of calls on the topic of microbiome with the project 'Cell type specific targeting for future in vivo delivery in cell & gene therapy'. Prof. Dr. Nico Lachmann from the BREATH site and Prof. Dr. Soni Savai Pullamsetti from the DZL site UGMLC are participating for the DZL. The funding will be used to study how macrophages and their transport pathways in the body can be altered to develop new therapeutic strategies. Prof. Dr. Nico Lachmann and his team at the Clinic for Pediatric Pneumology, Allergology and Neonatology at Hannover Medical School have been conducting research for years on the use of modified macrophages as a therapeutic approach. "Macrophages, or phagocytes, play a central role in the development and progression of various diseases and are therefore particularly exciting for the development of therapies," says Lachmann.
Human macrophages as drug transporters
Macrophages are cells of the innate immune system and play an important role in the development of infections, lung diseases, solid tumors, and other diseases. In their project, the scientists aim to develop cell-specific targeting strategies for macrophages that can be used by other researchers and adapted to specific diseases. The goal is to evaluate new transport systems and to modify phagocytes in different components of the organism. Using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), human macrophages are grown and transfected with different lipid nanoparticles (LNP). The modified macrophages are meant to transport active substances specifically to certain regions of the organism, where they can alter the function of existing macrophages. To achieve the greatest possible efficacy, the researchers are investigating the transfection efficiency of different types of macrophages and lipid nanoparticles.
The so-called LNP technology, which will be used for the project, is currently also used in the mRNA-based vaccines against coronavirus: "We see great potential in this approach and hope to use it to lay a foundation for the therapy of various diseases. We can all benefit from this interdisciplinary project," says Lachmann, who is very pleased about the support from the DZG Innovation Fund.