Research Topic

Interaction of nanomaterials with the immune system: role in nanosafety and nanomedicine

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The immune system is a complex system of cells and soluble mediators scattered throughout the body, which has the double role of maintaining tissue integrity and homeostasis and of protecting the organism from possible dangers, from invading pathogens to environmentally-borne dangerous chemicals. New ...

The immune system is a complex system of cells and soluble mediators scattered throughout the body, which has the double role of maintaining tissue integrity and homeostasis and of protecting the organism from possible dangers, from invading pathogens to environmentally-borne dangerous chemicals. New chemicals recognisable by the immune system are Engineered nanomaterial/nanoparticles are new agents in our environment, which are becoming common due to their presence in many products (colour pigments, solar cells, food packaging, shampoos, toothpaste, cigarettes), and in the environment and workplaces as contaminants. Furthermore, nanoparticles are employed in medicine, as adjuvants in vaccination, agents in diagnostic imaging procedures, and therapeutic drug delivery systems.

Nanoparticles that are released in the environment and come in contact with the immune system after occasional exposure need to be eliminated from the organism if they are considered as potentially dangerous. In this case, however, due to their peculiar characteristics of size, shape, surface charge and persistence, nanoparticles may elicit undesirable reactions and have detrimental effects on the immune system (e.g., cytotoxicity, inflammation, anaphylaxis, immunosuppression). Conversely, nanomedicines need to escape immune recognition/elimination and must persist in the organism long enough for reaching their target and exerting their beneficial effects. Immune cells and molecules at the body surface (airway and digestive mucosae, skin) are the first that come in contact with nanomaterials upon accidental exposure, while immune effectors in blood, muscle, liver and kidney are those that come in contact mainly with nanomedicinal products (nanodrugs, nanodiagnostics, nanovaccines). Thus, the evaluation of the interaction of the immune system with nanoparticles/nanomaterials is a topic of key importance both in nanotoxicology and in nanomedicine.

Immuno-nanosafety studies consider both accidental exposure to nanoparticles, which may occur by skin contact, ingestion or inhalation (at doses and with a frequency that are not known); and medical exposure, which takes place with a defined administration schedule (route, dose, frequency).
A large number of studies focus on the interaction between the immune system and nanoparticles that, for medical purposes, have been specifically modified to stimulate immunity or to avoid immune recognition, as in the case of vaccine carriers/adjuvants or drug delivery systems, respectively.

The aims of this Research Topic is to provide an overview of recent strategies:

1. for the production of new nanoparticles taking into account their effects on immune responses, in order to avoid undesirable effects on one hand, and to design particles with desirable effects for medical applications on the other hand;

2. for studying the effects of environmental nanoparticles on the human health.


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