Apr. 6, 2008 Two Mayo Clinic researchers who study the role nanoparticles may play in hardening of the arteries and in the formation of kidney stones, will lead a symposium on how these super-small particles may affect the body’s physiology. 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 the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. They will lead the symposium, “Using nanotechnology to answer physiological questions.”
One of the questions physiologists want to explore is whether nanoparticles can cause diseases such as atherosclerosis, kidney stones, gall stones and periodontal disease. Dr. Lieske is investigating how nano-sized crystals in the kidney can lead to the development of kidney stones. Dr. Miller has been studying the link between atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and nanoparticles which calcify within the arteries.
New technology: promise and peril?
Nanotechnology presents intriguing possibilities and some troubling unknowns. The technology is already applied in commercial products as disparate as flame resistant materials and cosmetics. In addition, the technology holds promise in the development of medications that can target precise areas of the body, such as a tumor.
Because of their size, nanoparticles may more easily gain entry to the body, where the longterm effects are unknown. Dr. 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, Dr. Miller 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 which later become larger and eventually develop into kidney stones. Dr. Lieske hypothesizes 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.
The symposium will take place April 8 at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego. Dr. Miller and Dr. Lieske will moderate a program on nanotechnology at Experimental Biology. The speakers are Vitaly Vodyanoy of the University of Auburn; Robert Lee of The Ohio State University; Kevin D. Gillis of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Farooq Shiekh of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine will present at the symposium.
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