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Carlos Antonio Aldrete

The human immune system is built from a team of cells that recognize infection, foreign bodies, and disease, recruit each other for help, and mount a response. The ability of cells to sense their environment and dynamically respond to dysregulation in the body has made them a promising tool for novel therapies. Cellular therapeutics seek to engineer human cells to specifically target, and fight a given disease. Despite their promise, a hurdle for these therapies is that disease sites often contain toxic and inhibitory environments that can kill and limit the efficacy of engineered cells. My work seeks to engineer therapeutic cells with the ability to modulate their environment through the secretion of powerful immune signals known as cytokines. I use protein engineering to create protein circuits within human cells that allow for small-molecule control over the activity of secreted cytokines. This platform marks a step towards improving the control and efficacy over engineered therapeutic cells with applications in treating cancer, auto-immune diseases, and improving muscle regeneration.