The engineering of materials that can modulate the immune system is an emerging field that is developing alongside immunology. For therapeutic ends such as vaccine development, materials are now being engineered to deliver antigens through specific intracellular pathways, allowing better control of the way in which antigens are presented to one of the key types of immune cell, T cells. Materials are also being designed as adjuvants, to mimic specific 'danger' signals in order to manipulate the resultant cytokine environment, which influences how antigens are interpreted by T cells. In addition to offering the potential for medical advances, immunomodulatory materials can form well-defined model systems, helping to provide new insight into basic immunobiology.
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