Tiny particles only billionths of a meter in diameter, about two thousand would fit across the width of a human hair, could offer relief to millions of people who are allergic to the nickel in everything from jewelry to coins and cell phones, say scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH).
Jeffrey Karp, lead researcher and co-director of the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics at BWH and colleagues including R. Rox Anderson, a dermatologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, have found that nanoparticles containing calcium could offer a safe solution to the problem.
When applied to the skin in a cream, the nanoparticles efficiently capture the nickel, preventing it from making its way into the body.
Further, the nanoparticles themselves were designed so that they cannot penetrate the skin. The cream with its nickel can then be easily washed off with water.
"Despite barrier creams, anti-inflammatory drugs, and attempts to avoid nickel, this [metal] is still the most common cause of allergic skin reactions. Nanoparticles that bind to [the nickel] allergens but do not penetrate the skin offer a new strategy. Big hope in a small package!," said Anderson.
All results "suggest that nanoparticles can effectively prevent the penetration of nickel into the skin, and may therefore abrogate nickel-induced contact dermatitis," the team concluded.
The study is detailed in the online issue of Nature Nanotechnology.