The interaction of condensed materials with biological cells has long been a subject of scientific and practical interest. It has typically been assumed that the detailed chemical and physical properties of the surface determine the intra- and to some degree the inter-cellular processes via rather specific interactions. Such interactions, being a detailed property of a specific material and its surface preparation require rather detailed study in order to make a rational connection between surface and the state of the cell. Given this picture, it is difficult to see how general paradigms, these most often the remit of physical science, could emerge. However, this conception of surface-cell interactions is incorrect, and we believe that, besides leading to misinterpretations in the past, it has contributed to an unnecessary barrier between biological, biomedical and physical sciences.
It is now beginning to be understood that the nature of the biomaterial surface is not the important parameter in determining biocompatibility, but rather the nature of the outermost layer of the surface-adsorbed adsorbed proteins, which is what the cells actually interact with. That is, the different organisation of the proteins in the surface adsorbed layer may lead to a variety of peptide units (here termed “epitopes”) being expressed at the surface. In cases where the proteins have lost most of their tertiary structure, it is highly likely that peptide sequences (epitopes) that are not displayed at the surface by the native protein may in fact be presented at the surface by adsorbed proteins. Such surface expressions could contain novel epitopes that trigger various signalling pathways or even diseases. Thus, future approaches to understanding cell-biomaterial and cell-nanoparticle interactions should focus on characterizing the outer layer of the adsorbed proteins, or “epitope mapping”.
In this conference we seek to discuss the consequences of protein-adsorption on a surface in a manner that is appropriate for future study by physical and biological sciences, and useful for the biomedical sciences, and particularly as a paradigm on which to base the emerging field of NanoToxicology, as here the amount of surface available to interact with proteins and cells is enormous.
It is therefore timely to bring together many of the European researchers active in this arena, along with some of their non-European counterparts, to discuss how to best frame and develop the emerging arena of Nanotoxicology and especially to build onto the existing expertise in biomaterials.
The meeting is not just planned as a place to how results, but as a working environment for establishing and developing the newly emerging discipline of NanoToxicology. There will be invited talks, as well as poster sessions and open discussions. Young people are especially encouraged to participate, as the meeting is very much looking forward to the future.