Cytokines as biomarkers of nanoparticle immunotoxicity.
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Nanoscale objects, whether of biologic origin or synthetically created, are being developed into devices for a variety of bionanotechnology diagnostic and pharmaceutical applications. However, the potential immunotoxicity of these nanomaterials and mechanisms by which they may induce adverse reactions have not received sufficient attention. Nanomaterials, depending on their characteristics and compositions, can interact with the immune system in several ways and either enhance or suppress immune system function. Cytokines perform pleiotropic functions to mediate and regulate the immune response and are generally recognized as biomarkers of immunotoxicity. While the specificity and validity of certain cytokines as markers of adverse immune response has been established for chemicals, small and macromolecular drugs, research on their applicability for predicting and monitoring the immunotoxicity of engineered nanomaterials is still ongoing. The goal of this review is to provide guidelines as to important cytokines that can be utilized for evaluating the immunotoxicity of nanomaterials and to highlight the role of those cytokines in mediating adverse reactions, which is of particular importance for the clinical development of nanopharmaceuticals and other nanotechnology-based products. Importantly, the rational design of nanomaterials of low immunotoxicity will be discussed, focusing on synthetic nanodevices, with emphasis on both the nanoparticle-forming materials and the embedded cargoes.