Few examples of undesirable immune responses include those directed against the host (autoimmunity), transplanted organs (transplant rejection) or a harmless substance (allergies).
The immune system can run awry in many ways. In each case, the immune system is reacting to the presence of a molecule known as an antigen. Currently, the best treatment options involve broad spectrum suppression of the immune system, which increases susceptibility to infection. A preferable solution would be to specifically turn off the immune cells that respond to non-threatening objects.
In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Dr. James Paulson and colleagues at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California used antigen-decorated nanoparticles to block the development of antibodies to a immune response-inducing antigens in mice. In an accompanying commentary, Edward Clark of the University of Washington discusses how this finding could lead to therapeutic agents capable of precisely controlling our immune system, allowing favorable responses and inhibiting unfavorable responses.