Sometimes our greatest ally is also our worst enemy. The immune system which protects us from foreign bacteria as well as internal mutations can turn on our bodies by attacking healthy cells. This behavior leads to different kinds of diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), Type 1 diabetes, asthma, and some allegories. Researchers at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering and Northwestern University have recently found a way to combat these diseases by selectively suppressing the immune system, instead of disabling it almost entirely.
The traditional method to combat these diseases is with medication that keeps the immune system from responding, but this is a dangerous tactic as it opens the patient up to other diseases, including cancer. There are some newer techniques though that use a patient's white blood cells to selectively suppress the immune system, but the process involved is quite complex as the patient's white blood cells have to be harvested and manipulated. What the researchers have done is replicate and even surpasses the results of this newer technique but with nanoparticles instead of white blood cells. These nanoparticles have a chemical attached to them that tells the immune system to ignore a specific kind of cell, such as myelin which is what is attacked in MS. While the one cell type is ignored, other actual threats can be attacked.
By using nanoparticle which can be mass produced outside of a hospital, this treatment should eventually become available to the public, pending clinical trials. Fortunately the material the nanoparticles are made of have already been approved by the FDA and in use.