First discovered by geologist Robert L. Folk in hot spring deposits at Viterbo, Lazio, Italy and called “nan(n)obacteria”, nano (10-9) sized particles have since been discovered in mammalian blood and human kidney stones and calcified arteries. Our program is directed toward identifying and culturing nanoparticles from calcified human arterial plaque. These studies represent a multidisciplinary effort which includes the expertise of microbiologists, surgeons, nephrologists, cardiologists, and pathologists at the Mayo Clinic. Controversy raged as to whether or not biologic nanoparticles are a life form because they can be cultured outside of the body and contain partial sequences of nucleic acids, lipids and proteins some of which are bacterial in origin. However, most recent evidence suggests that these particles are cores of organic material which retain some enzymatic activity and can bind calcium phosphate under physiological conditions. Atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries has been classified as an inflammatory disease for decades and microbial pathogens cause inflammation and can accelerate the atherosclerotic process. Furthermore, intravenous injection of isolated nanoparticles into experimental animals also accelerates vascular remodeling at sites of injury, thus fulfilling in part Koch's postulates of infectious causality of disease even though nanoparticles may not be pathogens in the traditional sense.
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