Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A 24-karat Gold Key to Unlock the Immune System

Developing a drug or vaccine requires a delicate balancing act with the immune system.
On one hand, medications need to escape detection by the immune system in order to perform their function. But vaccinations — de-activated versions of a disease or virus — need to do the reverse. They prompt the immune system to create protective antibodies. But scientists are still stumped by how the immune system recognizes different particles, and how it chooses whether or not to react against them.

Using nanoparticles made of pure gold, Dr. Dan Peer, head of Tel Aviv University's Laboratory of Nanomedicine at the Department of Cell Research and Immunology and the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, with a team including Drs. Meir Goldsmith and Dalit Landesman-Milo and in collaboration with Prof. Vincent Rotello and Dr. Daniel Moyano from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has developed a new method of introducing chemical residues into the immune system, allowing them to note the properties that incur the wrath of immune cells. Because the gold flecks are too small to be detected by the immune system, the immune system only responds when they are coated with different chemical residues.

This breakthrough could lead to an increased understanding of the properties of viruses and bacteria, better drug delivery systems, and more effective medications and vaccinations. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

A tool for exploration

To begin probing the immune system, researchers used particles of gold, approximately two nanometers in diameter, and covered them with various chemical residues. Only when water-resistant residues were introduced did the immune system respond to their presence. That established a demonstrable link between hydrophobicity — the degree to which a molecule repels water — and the reaction of the immune system.

This idea has a basis in the normal functioning of the immune system, Dr. Peer explains. During cell death, the hydrophobic areas of the cell membrane become exposed. The immune system then realizes that damage has occurred and begins to alert neighboring cells.

The researchers discovered that the same principle held true for the chemicals added to the gold particles' surface. The more "water-hating" the particle is, the more actively the immune system will mobilize against it, he says.

Dr. Peer observes that this is only the first step in a long line of experiments. "We are using these gold particles to tackle the question of how the immune system recognizes different particles, which might include features such as geometry, charge, curvature, and so much more. Now that we know the tool works, we can build on it," he says.

Testing the "Danger Model"

Until now, scientists have developed theories about how the immune system functions, but have lacked the machinery to test these ideas. One such theory is the "Danger Model" by Prof. Polly Matzinger, which hypothesizes that cellular damage interacts with immune cells at the membrane level. Once they identify the foreign molecule as a "danger," the immune cells send signals throughout the immune system. Their initial experiment with hydrophobicity was designed to generate a toolbox for probing this theory, says Dr. Peer, whose investigations included both in vitro and in vivo experiments using mouse immune cells.

In the future, researchers will study various bacterial, viral, or damaged cells and to make the gold nanoparticles even more similar, thereby discovering which elements of dangerous particles are calling the body's immune system to arms. "We now have the capability of using nanomaterials to probe the immune system in a very accurate manner," says Dr. Peer, a breakthrough that could revolutionize the way we understand the immune system.

George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>