Professor Sunil Shaunak, of Imperial College London, investigates the use of new tools from nanotechnology to manipulate the immune system.
"Even though doctors have a powerful arsenal of antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals at their disposal, patients are still dying," Professor Shaunak says. The reason, he asserts, is the over-reaction of the patient's immune system to the threat, which doctors call septic shock. His latest work is the culmination of 10 years research effort to address this neglected aspect of treating an infection.
The team chose to focus their research on the cytokine storm that occurs in the gut in the diarrhoeal disease shigellosis. The reaction is triggered by features on the outside of bacterial cells called LPS that are recognised by receptors on immune cells. Professor Shaunak's idea was to devise a molecular mimic that binds to the same receptors as LPS, but doesn't trigger a response. The aim would be to reduce the cytokines released to levels that would be helpful rather than harmful. To find such a mimic, they studied products of nanotechnology called dendrimers.
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Source: Imperial College Website