A recent independent study cited using Cellero cryopreserved primary NK cells in their bid to design a more effective form of NK cell therapy. [1]

Natural killer cells (NK cells) are a critical piece of the innate immune system, displaying cytotoxic activity against virally infected cells and other physiologically stressed cells such as cancer cells.

Like T cells, NK cells are being investigated for their therapeutic potential in fighting cancer. Although T cell-based therapies hold the advantage (for now) of being more broadly researched and further along in clinical development, there are fewer adverse events associated with NK cell immunotherapy, likely due to the cell type’s limited persistence and expansion capability once infused into patients.

Scientists at biotechnology company Acepodia aimed to develop an NK cell line which retained a better safety profile, but with improved cytotoxic capabilities against cancer cells. By using NK cells sourced from allogeneic donors rather than patients, cell expansion could be accomplished in culture, prior to patient infusion.

The research group were determined to create a unique NK cell line with high antibody-binding capacity, and thus a greater ability to destroy invading caner cells. They specifically focused their attention on CD16, an antibody-binding cell surface protein found on several different immune cell types that has variable expression in the general NK cell population. CD16 plays a pivotal role in antibody-dependent cytotoxicity against cancer cells, and its expression has even been used to predict cancer treatment efficacy. [2] The CD16 protein has some genetic variability and is expressed in both high antibody-binding and low-antibody binding forms, with the higher binding forms being more efficient at fighting cancer.

To carry out their research, the team acquired primary NK cells from Cellero. NK cells sourced from Cellero are isolated by flow cytometry (Fig. 1) using either positive or negative immunomagnetic selection and supplied in a cryopreserved format for maximum research flexibility.  

Figure 1: Cellero Human Primary NK cells isolated via negative selection immunomagnetic separation using flow cytometry. Cells are available in a 05-10M cells/vial format.

In this study, the primary NK cells were needed to serve as a control against which the scientists could judge the effectiveness of their newly engineered cell line, which they named oNK-1. A population of oNK-1 cells were isolated from the immortalized cell line NK92 through the progressive enrichment CD-16 expressing cells combined with FACs cell sorting technology.

NK cells isolated in this manner showed no significant change in viable cell density but did demonstrate significantly higher antibody binding capacity and significantly higher cytotoxicity against several different cancer cell lines. oNK-1 cells also displayed a stable viability and proliferation rate throughout 30 days of expansion, without any significant loss of CD-16 expression.

We have previously highlighted research aimed at enhancing the therapeutic potential of NK cells. In that study, researchers used cryopreserved Cellero immune cells for studies in which they successfully designed a modified CRISPR platform which made it easier to “edit” the NK cell genome. This new research provides an even clearer picture of what next-generation NK cell therapies will look like. Next-generation therapeutic cells will likely be more easily genetically modified, have a better safety profile, display stronger cytotoxic activity against cancer cells, and perhaps most importantly, represent a stable supply of starting material for allogeneic applications.

Cellero’s wide selection of characterized immune cell products provide support for cell therapy from early development through commercialization. Please visit our website to choose the products best suited to your research.



  1. Cheng Z, et al. A novel endogenous CD16-Expressing Natural Killer Cell for cancer immunotherapy. Biochemistry and Biophysics Reports. 26 (100935) 1-7. 2021.
  2. Lu Y. t al. CD16 expression on neutrophils predicts treatment efficacy of capecitabine in colorectal cancer patients. BMC Immunology 21(46). 2020.

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