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Published on Feb 21, 2013
Macrophages — literally, "big eaters" — are a main part of the body's innate immune system . These cells find and engulf invaders, like bacteria, viruses, splinters and dirt. Unfortunately, macrophages also eat helpful foreigners, including nanoparticles that deliver drugs or help image tumors.
Along with members of his lab, Dennis Discher, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, has developed a "passport" that could be attached to therapeutic particles and devices, tricking macrophages into leaving them alone.
Taking a cue from a membrane protein that the body's own cells use to tell macrophages not to eat them, the researchers engineered a the simplest functional version of that protein and attached it to plastic nanoparticles. These passport-carrying nanoparticles remained in circulation significantly longer than ones without the peptide, when tested in a mouse model.