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The key to my immune system

March 28th, 2012
by Tania

Gold particles modified with chemical residues interact with immune cells.

Credit: Professor Vincent Rotello, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

An innovative tool could offer the key, quite literally, to better drug delivery in the immune system.

A 24-karat gold key has been developed by TAU which could overcome problems experienced with the immune system when developing drugs.

Medications have to escape detection by the immune system, and vaccinations have to do the opposite by prompting the immune system to create protective antibodies.

Overall, scientists are still rather stumped when it comes to how the immune system recognizes different particles, and how it chooses whether or not to react against them. However, new research led by Tel Aviv University's Dr Dan Peer has used nanoparticles made of pure gold in a method that introduces chemical residues into the immune system.

This new technique acts as a toll for exploration, by allowing the researchers to note the properties that incur the wrath of immune cells. The gold flecks are too small to be detected by the immune system, acting as a key to entry, which can prompt responses if desired when the particles are coated with different chemical residues.

The new technique offers technological advances that could lead to a greater understanding of the properties of viruses and bacteria, better drug delivery systems, and more effective medications and vaccinations.

Scientists have postulated about how the immune system works for some time, but have been unable to back their hypothesis' up with further evidence due to a lack of machinery available to test their ideas.

Professor Polly Matzinger is one such researcher who documented the 'Danger Model'. This theory hypothesises that cellular damage interacts with immune cells at the membrane level, and the new gold software was designed as a toolbox for probing this theory.

Dr Peer said: "We now have the capability of using nanomaterials to probe the immune system in a very accurate manner.

"A breakthrough that could revolutionize the way we understand the immune system."

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Posted in Chemical Science, Industry News, Life Science, Medical Science

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