Scientists to probe role of nanoparticles in disease

April 3rd, 2008 - 2:56 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 3 (IANS) Physiologists want to explore whether nanoparticles can cause diseases like atherosclerosis, kidney stones, gall stones and periodontal disease. Nanoparticles are a thousand times smaller than the bacteria, E. coli, but recent advances in microscopy have allowed researchers to watch them interact with cells in the body, said Virginia M. Miller and John C. Lieske of Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Lieske is investigating how nano-sized crystals in the kidney are linked with kidney stone formation. Miller has been studying the link between atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and nanoparticles that calcify within the arteries.

Because of their size, nanoparticles may more easily gain entry into the body, where the long-term effects are unknown. Miller has found that some nanoparticles cause inflammation when injected into the blood vessels of animals, an early step in the development of atherosclerosis.

Using the latest in microscopy, she has begun to observe nanoparticles from atherosclerotic tissue. She hopes to determine how these particles gain access to cells and whether the interaction eventually leads to cell activation or death leading to calcification.

Kidneys stones start as tiny calcifications that later become larger. Lieske hypothesises that the nanoparticle causes the initial calcification. Once that happens, other processes can take place that results in a kidney stone.

It is not yet known where nanoparticles that are implicated in kidney stones and atherosclerosis originate - whether our bodies contain them naturally or we obtain them from the environment.

Miller said research should proceed to determine if nanoparticles are safe over the long term. “We may not know some of the consequences until further down the road,” she said.

Miller and Lieske will moderate a symposium on the subject on April 8 at an experimental biology conference in San Diego, California.

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