Nanomaterials for immunomodulation

Boosting or suppressing the innate and adaptive immune response can treat and prevent a variety of diseases, from autoimmune syndromes, to cancer, to inflammatory and infectious diseases. The immune system however is exquisitely regulated, and its unspecific modulation might lead to unintended severe secondary effects. Specific approaches, such as cell immunotherapies, might obviate these outcomes, but they are generally highly costly and often inefficient due to the processing procedures. Nanomaterials can help overcome many roadblocks in the development of immunomodulation therapies. For example, they might allow in vivo targeted modulation of immune cells and delivery of specific immunostimulating or immunosuppressive agents (or a combination of) at precise locations in the body. Bioengineering studies to generate reproducible, scalable and affordable nano-enabled immunomodulation approaches are multiplying, and have allowed the development of an innovative vaccine formulation against COVID-19, recently rolled out for human use in many countries. Other nanovaccines against infectious diseases, but also against cancer, are currently being investigated. The widespread clinical application of immunomodulatory nanomaterials and nano-enabled strategies, such as those developed for immune cell therapies and cancer immunotherapies, is however still lacking. Further efforts towards understanding the complex interactions of the immune system with man-made materials, and rational design of preclinical studies might help clinical translation.

Nanomaterials interacting with the immune system.