Natural killer cells as a therapeutic tool for infectious diseases - current status and future perspectives

Stanislaw Schmidt, Lars Tramsen, Bushra Rais, Evelyn Ullrich and Thomas Lehrnbecher _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:20891-20907. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25058

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Stanislaw Schmidt1, Lars Tramsen1, Bushra Rais2,3, Evelyn Ullrich2,3 and Thomas Lehrnbecher1,3

1Division for Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany

2Division of Stem Cell Transplantation and Immunology, Laboratory for Cellular Immunology, Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany

3LOEWE Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Cellular Immunology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany

Correspondence to:

Thomas Lehrnbecher, email: [email protected]

Keywords: natural killer cell; adoptive immunotherapy; virus; bacterium; fungus

Received: January 16, 2018     Accepted: March 21, 2018     Published: April 17, 2018


Natural Killer (NK) cells are involved in the host immune response against infections due to viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens, all of which are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised patients. Since the recovery of the immune system has a major impact on the outcome of an infectious complication, there is major interest in strengthening the host response in immunocompromised patients, either by using cytokines or growth factors or by adoptive cellular therapies transfusing immune cells such as granulocytes or pathogen-specific T-cells. To date, relatively little is known about the potential of adoptively transferring NK cells in immunocompromised patients with infectious complications, although the anti-cancer property of NK cells is already being investigated in the clinical setting. This review will focus on the antimicrobial properties of NK cells and the current standing and future perspectives of generating and using NK cells as immunotherapy in patients with infectious complications, an approach which is promising and might have an important clinical impact in the future.

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