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A 24-karat gold key to unlock the immune system
Date:3/26/2012

tioning 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.


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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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