Bengaluru: A team from Indian Institute of Science ,IISc), in a new study has found how the functioning of immune cells in the human body could alter in the advent of increased exposure to nanoparticles used for medical purposes. Explaining why the study was conducted, IISc said that human bodies are constantly exposed to foreign particles, many of them harmful. And, the job of removing these particles falls to specialized immune cells that phagocytose — literally eat these particles, and attempt to destroy them inside their cellular compartments.
“However, in the day of modern medicine, bodies also come in contact with engineered nanoparticles that are developed either for diagnostic purposes or for controlled delivery of medicinal drugs. If an immune cell recognizes these synthetic nanoparticles as foreign and internalises them, its characteristic ability to phagocytose pathogens appears to change,” an IISc statement read.
Pointing out that this change in a ‘particle-loaded phagocyte’ is poorly understood, the institute said to understand how these particles influence immune cells once internalised, Siddharth Jhunjhunwala and his team at the Center for BioSystems Science and Engineering, IISc, used ‘cargo-free nanoparticles’ – particles not loaded with any drugs or diagnostics. The work has been described in a publication, and the team has also filed for a patent to enable the commercial use of this particle technology.
The researchers studied the uptake of these nanoparticles by three different types of immune cells: Monocytes (large phagocytic white blood cells), macrophages (large phagocytic cells found to be stationary in tissues or as a mobile white blood cell at sites of infection) and neutrophils. (neutrophilic white blood cells). “They discovered that after internalising nanoparticles, the phagocytic ability of the cells increased noticeably. This increase did not depend on the size of the particle or the material it was made of, and it was a direct result of increased fluidity of the lipid membrane surrounding each cell,” IISc said.
It added that researchers showed that when tested in the lab, immune cells loaded with such nanoparticles could identify and destroy bacteria like E. coli faster. “The uptake of abiotic particulates was also enhanced in these cells,” the statement read.