24-karat gold key to the immune system

Tel Aviv University scientists have developed a new method of introducing chemical residues into the immune system. While medications need to escape detection by the immune system in order to perform their function, vaccinations – de-activated versions of a disease …

Tel Aviv University scientists have developed a new method of introducing chemical residues into the immune system.

While medications need to escape detection by the immune system in order to perform their function, vaccinations – de-activated versions of a disease or virus – need to do the reverse and prompt the immune system to create protective antibodies. Until now scientists have been 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’sLaboratory 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 responded when they were coated with different chemical residues.

“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,” says Dr. Peer.

This breakthrough could now lead to an increased understanding of the properties of viruses and bacteria, better drug delivery systems, and more effective medications and vaccinations.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.