Nonviral genome engineering of natural killer cells

Gabrielle M. Robbins, Minjing Wang, Emily J Pomeroy, Branden S. Moriarity

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK) cells are cytotoxic lymphocytes of the innate immune system capable of immune surveillance. Given their ability to rapidly and effectively recognize and kill aberrant cells, especially transformed cells, NK cells represent a unique cell type to genetically engineer to improve its potential as a cell-based therapy. NK cells do not express a T cell receptor and thus do not contribute to graft-versus-host disease, nor do they induce T cell-driven cytokine storms, making them highly suited as an off-the-shelf cellular therapy. The clinical efficacy of NK cell-based therapies has been hindered by limited in vivo persistence and the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment characteristic of many cancers. Enhancing NK cell resistance to tumor inhibitory signaling through genome engineering has the potential to improve NK cell persistence in the tumor microenvironment and restore cytotoxic functions. Alongside silencing NK cell inhibitory receptors, NK cell killing can be redirected by the integration of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). However, NK cells are associated with technical and biological challenges not observed in T cells, typically resulting in low genome editing efficiencies. Viral vectors have achieved the greatest gene transfer efficiencies but carry concerns of random, insertional mutagenesis given the high viral titers necessary. As such, this review focuses on nonviral methods of gene transfer within the context of improving cancer immunotherapy using engineered NK cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number350
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • CRISPR/Cas
  • Cell-based therapy
  • Genome engineering
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lipofection
  • NK cells
  • Nonviral
  • Nucleofection
  • Transposon

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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