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Cargo carrying backpacks can be attached to hungry living immune cells without being internalized

Figure: Top - cartoon rendering of a living cell migrating on a surface with a polymer backpack attached. Backpack can contain cancer treating drugs and other therapeutic agents. Bottom left - SEM image of a polymer backpack attached to a macrophage cell. Right - Image showing a macrophage cell that has internalized three synthetic particles. Polymer backpacks are not internalized but remain attached to surface even when cells consume other entities.

Once activated, specific cells of our immune system called macrophages, are rapidly recruited to disease sites to help rid the body of the infecting material. If one could attached cargo carrying polymer backpacks to these cells, it would be possible to load the cells with drug molecules that help to facilitate this process. The problem is that macrophages by their nature are designed to ?eat? (internalize) foreign materials. Rubner and Cohen in collaboration with Professor Mitragotri at UCSB, have found that suitably designed polymer backpacks can be attached to these very hungry cells without being internalized. Cells fitted with polymer backpacks were able to carry out their normal functions including the internalization of synthetic colloidal particles. These promising results suggest new strategies for helping the immune system fight diseases such as cancer.

This work was supported primarily by the MRSEC Program of the National Science Foundation under award number DMR-0819762.

Nishit Doshi, Albert J. Swiston, Jonathan B. Gilbert, Maria L. Alcaraz, Robert E. Cohen, Michael F. Rubner, Samir Mitragotri, Advanced Materials, Volume 23, Issue 12, pages H105?H109, March 25, 2011.

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