Researchers from Luna Innovations Incorporated (NASDAQ: LUNA) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) are the first to show that carbon nanospheres, sometimes referred to as "buckyballs," are able to block allergic response in human cell culture experiments and mice. These findings are described in a paper entitled "Fullerene Nanomaterials Inhibit the Allergic Response" published in the July 1 issue of the Journal of Immunology, setting the stage for the development of new potential therapies for allergies using nanomaterials.
Kent Murphy, CEO, Luna Innovations, noted about the immunology discovery and publication, "Luna's collaborations with universities and strategic partners are key to our business model and we are delighted to be part of this dynamic program to discover a new frontier in medicine. We are actively seeking pharmaceutical partnerships to help us accelerate the development and validation process of these new and exciting compounds."
Allergy is the fifth leading chronic disease in the United States among all ages, and the third most common chronic disease among children under 18 years old, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. An estimated 50 million Americans (one in five) suffer from some type of
allergy. There are currently various treatments to control allergies, but no known cure. "The immune system both protects us and causes harm, so we are always interested in finding new pathways to help manage the harmful effects," said Chris Kepley, Ph.D., principal author on the paper and assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at the VCU School of Medicine. "This discovery is exciting because it points to the possibility that these novel materials can one day lead to new therapies," said Kepley.
Buckyballs, or fullerenes, are named after American architect R. Buckminster Fuller renowned for his designs based on geodesic domes. Researchers at Luna Innovations have discovered and demonstrated that therapeutic applications for fullerenes may be much more practical than previously thought or reported.
"Through this joint collaboration with VCU, we demonstrated the ability to modulate the immune response with nanoscale precision," said Dr. Robert Lenk, President of Luna Innovations' nanoWorks Division and co-author of the paper. "Our experiments could be the beginning of an entirely new field of medicine we are calling nanoImmunology. We are excited about the potential possibilities in immunotherapeutics and other medical disorders that may be possible with these compounds."
The new study's findings are published in Volume 179 / No. 1 / July 1, 2007 issue of the Journal of Immunology. This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. A copy of the study is available to reporters in PDF format by email request from the American Association of Immunologists at firstname.lastname@example.org .