Scientists at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Harvard Medical School, Boston have found a way of mimicking the body's natural mechanism of fighting inflammation. During inflammation cells release very small particles termed 'microparticles' that retain features of their parent cell. The scientists discovered that certain microparticles were beneficial to health, and that these microparticles contained anti-inflammatory lipids, which help terminate inflammation and return the body to its normal balance.
The discovery, featured online in the current edition of the Journal of Immunology, paves the way for new personalized treatments to target uncontrolled inflammation that need not rely on synthetic biomaterials, therefore reducing potential toxicity.
Inflammation of joints and muscles is implicated in many human diseases including cardiovascular disease, arthritis and temporomandibular disorders and its treatment remains an unmet medical need.
Led by Dr Lucy V Norling (a Foundation Fellow of the Arthritis Research UK), researchers from the William Harvey Research Institute at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Harvard Medical School (laboratory of Professor CN Serhan) investigated the properties of microparticles during inflammatory episodes showing them to contain beneficial lipids (fat molecules) that are precursors for compounds that stimulate the resolution of an inflammatory episode. The researchers then mimicked this natural communication process to make a new personalized delivery system for anti-inflammatory therapeutics based on natural human microparticles instead of synthetic biomaterials, which bring adverse immunotoxic effects.
The many benefits of these humanized particles, coined 'nano-proresolving medicines' are that they can be loaded with anti-inflammatories (e.g. resolvins or other small molecules) to enhance their protective bioactions.
Dr Norling said: "These results uncover a novel way of targeting anti-inflammatories therapeutics to the site of inflammation using a natural delivery system. I think this new mode of delivery could have application for numerous inflammatory diseases including those of the joint such as arthritis and temporomandibular disorders. "
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Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry offers international levels of excellence in research and teaching while serving a population of unrivalled diversity amongst which cases of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, TB, oral disease and cancers are prevalent, within east London and the wider Thames Gateway. Through partnership with our linked trusts, notably Barts and The London NHS Trust, and our associated University Hospital trusts – Homerton, Newham, Whipps Cross and Queen's – the School's research and teaching is informed by an exceptionally wide ranging and stimulating clinical environment.
At the heart of the School's mission lies world class research, the result of a focused programme of recruitment of leading research groups from the UK and abroad and a £100 million investment in state-of-the-art facilities. Research is focused on translational research, cancer, cardiology, clinical pharmacology, inflammation, infectious diseases, stem cells, dermatology, gastroenterology, haematology, diabetes, neuroscience, surgery and dentistry.
The School is nationally and internationally recognised for research in these areas, reflected in the £40 million it attracts annually in research income. Its fundamental mission, with its partner NHS Trusts, and other partner organisations such as CRUK, is to ensure that that the best possible clinical service is underpinned by the very latest developments in scientific and clinical teaching, training and research.
The Journal of Immunology