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  1. Background: Glioblastoma (GBM) is an aggressive brain tumor giving a poor prognosis with the current treatment options. The advent of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy revolutionized the field of immunotherapy and has provided a new set of therapeutic options for refractory blood cancers. In an effort to apply this therapeutic approach to solid tumors, various immune cell types and CAR constructs are being studied. Notably, macrophages have recently emerged as potential candidates for targeting solid tumors, attributed to their inherent tumorinfiltrating capacity and abundant presence in the tumor microenvironment. Materials and methods: In this study, we developed a chemically defined differentiation protocol to generate macrophages from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). A GBM-specific CAR was genetically incorporated into hPSCs to generate CAR hPSC-derived macrophages. Results: The CAR hPSC-derived macrophages exhibited potent anticancer activity against GBM cells in vitro. Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of generating functional CAR-macrophages from hPSCs for adoptive immunotherapy, thereby opening new avenues for the treatment of solid tumors, particularly GBM. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Adoptive chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered natural killer (NK) cells have shown promise in treating various cancers. However, limited immunological memory and access to sufficient numbers of allogenic donor cells have hindered their broader preclinical and clinical applications. Here, we first assess eight different CAR constructs that use an anti-PD-L1 nanobody and/or universal anti-fluorescein (FITC) single-chain variable fragment (scFv) to enhance antigen-specific proliferation and anti-tumor cytotoxicity of NK-92 cells against heterogenous solid tumors. We next genetically engineer human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) with optimized CARs and differentiate them into functional dual CAR-NK cells. The tumor microenvironment responsive anti-PD-L1 CAR effectively promoted hPSC-NK cell proliferation and cytotoxicity through antigen-dependent activation of phosphorylated STAT3 (pSTAT3) and pSTAT5 signaling pathways via an intracellular truncated IL-2 receptor β-chain (ΔIL-2Rβ) and STAT3-binding tyrosine-X-X-glutamine (YXXQ) motif. Anti-tumor activities of PD-L1-induced memory-like hPSC-NK cells were further boosted by administering a FITC-folate bi-specific adapter that bridges between a programmable anti-FITC CAR and folate receptor alpha-expressing breast tumor cells. Collectively, our hPSC CAR-NK engineering platform is modular and could constitute a realistic strategy to manufacture off-the-shelf CAR-NK cells with immunological memory-like phenotype for targeted immunotherapy. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  4. Immunotherapy is a powerful technique where immune cells are modified to improve cytotoxicity against cancerous cells to treat cancers that do not respond to surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. Expressing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) in immune cells, typically T lymphocytes, is a practical modification that drives an immune response against cancerous tissue. CAR-T efficacy is suboptimal in solid tumors due to the tumor microenvironment (TME) that limits T lymphocyte cytotoxicity. In this study, we demonstrate that neutrophils differentiated from human pluripotent stem cells modified with AAVS1-inserted CAR constructs showed a robust cytotoxic effect against prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) expressing LNCaP cells as a model for prostate cancer in vitro. Our results suggest that engineered CAR can significantly enhance the neutrophil anti-tumor effect, providing a new avenue in treating prostate cancers. 
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  5. Heart diseases are leading cause of death around the world. Given their unique capacity to self-renew and differentiate into all types of somatic cells, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) hold great promise for heart disease modeling and cardiotoxic drug screening. hPSC-derived cardiac organoids are emerging biomimetic models for studying heart development and cardiovascular diseases, but it remains challenging to make mature organoids with a native-like structure in vitro . In this study, temporal modulation of Wnt signaling pathway co-differentiated hPSCs into beating cardiomyocytes and cardiac endothelial-like cells in 3D organoids, resulting in cardiac endothelial-bounded chamber formation. These chambered cardiac organoids exhibited more mature membrane potential compared to cardiac organoids composed of only cardiomyocytes. Furthermore, a better response to toxic drugs was observed in chamber-contained cardiac organoids. In summary, spatiotemporal signaling pathway modulation may lead to more mature cardiac organoids for studying cardiovascular development and diseases. 
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