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BSI response to paper on effects of carbon nanoparticles in air pollution on immune system proteins

17 August 2017

An article published today in the Journal of Immunology has stated that it provides the first evidence that carbon nanoparticles (such as those found in air pollution) can alter structure and function of certain proteins of the immune system, indicating a possible new role for pollution exposure in disease susceptibility. In response to this article, the British Society for Immunology has issued the following statement.

Dr Sheena Cruickshank, British Society for Immunology spokesperson and Senior Lecturer in Immunology at the University of Manchester, said:

“This interesting study shows that incubation of carbon nanomaterials can inhibit the function of one of our anti-bacterial peptides. However it is not clear how the carbon nanomaterials reflect our physiological exposure to the complex cocktail of pollutants (which include particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide particles and carbon monoxide) as the work was purely done in cell model systems.

“Furthermore, the immune system has multiple layers of defence, including other anti-bacterial products and a variety of effector cells, and only one anti-bacterial product is assessed in this paper; therefore much more work needs to be done to assess the significance of this finding. However, this is an interesting, albeit relatively preliminary, study that suggests this is an important research area which should be investigated further.”

The full article that this statement is in response to can be found at: Findlay et al. 2017 Carbon nanoparticles inhibit the antimicrobial activities of the human cathelicidin LL-37 through structural alteration. Journal of Immunology doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1700706