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Biomineral Research: Minerals in human health, disease and therapeutics (BMR)

Jonathan Powell

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Medical Research Council (MRC)
The work of the Biomineral Research Group focuses on minerals, particularly nanomineral synthesis, analysis and cellular handling, to help provide solutions to unmet needs in nutrition and health. Much of our work concentrates on the gastrointestinal tract and in understanding gut handling of mineral nanoparticles: an area of increasingly high priority both nationally and internationally. Our work integrates basic chemical and cellular studies with ex vivo studies (i.e. tissue analysis) and in vivo human studies and, therefore, progresses in a strong translational framework from discovery science through to health applications. We continue to exploit intellectual property that arises through these studies, working closely with MRC Technology. Our programme aims to (i) better describe why there are endogenous nanomineral pathways in the gastrointestinal tract and how these facilitate cell sampling of luminal macromolecules (ii) demonstrate to what extent engineered nanoparticles, to which we are increasingly exposed, hijack these pathways and are systemically absorbed in humans (iii) delineate whether dysfunction in the cellular handling of endogenous or exogenous nanomineral underlies the cause of Crohn’s disease and (iv) show whether engineered nanoparticles can be exploited as novel immunotherapies to fight cancer. Our work may provide an important link in understanding how antigen and bacterial components are transported to immune cells of the gut, and how they might work together to ensure safe (tolerant) handling of foreign antigen in this environment. It is also informing on gut handling of nanoparticles and may have implications for the pathogenesis of Crohn’s disease.

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