Adoptive T cell transfer (ACT) and antigen-specific T cell research – Dr Enrico Lugli, Cytometry Unit Manager and Principal Investigator, Laboratory of Translational Immunology, Humanitas Institute, Milano, Italy.

Dr. Enrico Lugli, ‘Every cell can make a difference’.

Dr. Enrico Lugli, PhD is a renowned expert in Flow Cytometry. He is currently principal investigator and head of the Laboratory of Translational Immunology, which is located within the world-famous Humanitas Clinical and Research Centre, Italy. Dr Lugli’s research specialism is the human Immunology System. His current work focuses on identifying and characterising the different types of immune cells and how they function against viruses and tumour cells. It is hoped that by understanding these cells intimately at the biological and molecular level, advances may be made towards developing Immunotherapy to treat people with cancer.

The BD FACSymphony™ A5 is a highly specialised Flow Cytometer, developed by BD to help researchers maximise the amount of useful information they can extract from their cell analysis experiments. Dr. Lugli is one of a handful of scientists in Europe who currently have ready access to the benefits of the FACSymphony™. It stands as a vital piece of equipment in his arsenal of cutting-edge laboratory technology.

We were delighted when Dr Lugli took time out of his busy schedule recently, to have a chat about his work and his use of the FACSymphony™.

You are recognised as an expert in Flow Cytometry. So, of all the Cytometers on the market, why did you opt for the BD FACSymphony™ A5?

There are two main reasons. The first is that from my own previous work as well as work in collaboration with other laboratories, I know about the development of the FACSymphony™ as well as its capabilities. I also know others who had developed a working expertise with the machine and who were pleased with the results from their Flow Cytometry experiments. The other reason is that BD, with its portfolio of reagents and instrumentation, is the only one currently capable to offer 30 parameter flow cytometry..

I understand that you worked with BD to customise your FACSymphony™ to operate with 28 colours. Why was that important to your work?

I have a great working relationship with BD, which means that I have access to all the fluorochromes that are currently in development, even those in prototype. This means that I am able to test multiple antibody conjugates in order to identify the combinations that perform the best. These are then selected and combined to create the complex panels for the Flow Cytometry aspect of my research. The 28 colours provide me with more options than the standard range.

I understand that creating the panels can be quite a difficult process. How did you find the panel development with the BD FACSymphony™?

Ah, it was certainly a learning exercise. Although in the Laboratory of Translational Immunology we are experts in panel development, it still took three months to complete the first panel, with some help from BD at the beginning. However, we also learn fast. The second panel took just 2 weeks to develop! The support from BD at a technical level was great and the local team was awesome, especially with troubleshooting.

Can you explain a little about your current research?

My primary interest is in understanding our Immune Systems and in particular how our immune cell populations relate to cancer cells. Due to our close working relationship with surgeons, we have ready access to large numbers of clinical samples, which are vital to our work. The FACSymphony™ together with other laboratory equipment helps us sort out and examine the different types of immune cells. In this laboratory we are particularly interested in a type of immune cell called T cells – both tumour related and non-tumour related T cells.

So, what have you planned as the next step in your T cell research?

Developing a greater understanding of cancer is the priority. For this we will profile patients’ immune response and identify any mechanisms of immune dysfunction. This research links up with our interest in the role of Adoptive T Cell Transfer (ACT), a major clinical breakthrough in the therapy of cancer in the last few years. ACT is a technique in which we take lymphocytes from a donor, we grow them in vitro and then modify with synthetic receptors to confer specificity for antigens that are present on tumor cells. These cells are then transplanted into a recipient who is carrying the tumour and we look for the presence of tumour regression.

This is exciting work, which already led to immune-based treatments in patients with lymphoma and leukemia. With a deeper knowledge of our immune system, we are able to manipulate the cellular environment to create cells which are best at fighting tumour cells.

The FACSymphony™ comes into its own with this work. It facilitates single cell analysis in great detail. It picks out every cell in the sample and identifies all the different characteristics which we would otherwise not be able to see – for example we can analyse large numbers of proteins associated with each cell. It also identifies small cell populations that are hard to find – for example T cell Memory Stem Cells only represent 2-3% of cells in the peripheral blood but are of scientific importance because they have the highest capacity to proliferate. The FACSymphony™ allowed us to detect and measure the rare Antigen Specific T cells – this is really important because every cell can make a difference to our research. It also helps us identify new mechanisms of cell manipulation – we can analyse what is working and what is not, by the quality and flavour of the immune response.

Do you have much involvement with the BD FACSymphony™ User Community?

The community is a pretty select group of experts in Flow Cytometry. Last year we had a meeting in London, which was great. We were able to discuss the latest data and the improved technicalities of the new FACSymphony™ machine. I feel it is really important to maintain an annual face-to-face meeting. Although I think we do benefit with more sharing regarding technology, data and panels outside an annual meeting, and raising awareness of the group too – perhaps BD could help us with that?

I am sure they will. BD is so proud that by supplying Dr. Lugli with his fluorochromes and the BD FACSymphony™, together we are playing a small role in the ongoing fight against cancer.


More informations about Enrico Lugli here


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