Thought Leaders

Nanopathology: A New Revolutionary Approach to Medicine

Dr. Antonietta Gatti, talks to about nanopathology and how this revolutionary approach to medicine is changing diagnosis and treatment​.

What is nanopathology?

Nanopathology is a word I invented in 2001 and was the title given to a European research project I devised and coordinated. At that time, nanopathology was a word without any actual concept inside that was coined to define the diseases triggered by submicronic and nano-particles.

We suspected, as it was later demonstrated, that those particles were really capable of entering the tissues and cause biological reactions. Now, small and aggressive as we have seen they are, we call them “invisible bullets”. Our physiological barriers, the doors to our organism that are supposed to close and prevent the passage of harmful attackers, cannot stop them, so they are free to interact with the blood components, with the extracellular matrix and the cells with their complex content of information essential to life.

That phenomenon is called “nano-bio-interaction”. In the engineering field of nanotechnology, the term nano has a specific definition: a particle is nano when its size does not exceed 100 nm. The human body, though, does not recognize that rather bureaucratic definition. In a biological vision, nano is any foreign body that can interact with similarly-sized body components and give origin to a nano-bio-interaction as just described that can result in a harmful side effect or in effects that are not compatible with physiology. So, their size can be definitely larger that the limit of 100 nm and approach or even slightly exceed the micron.

The knowledge of the effects of those particles allows us to understand the origin of old and new diseases, to make a correct diagnosis and to have a more appropriate therapeutic approach. The abuse of drugs such as, among other categories, antibiotics and antiblastics can thus be, if not totally eliminated, reduced, with the additional advantage of getting significantly closer to the target which is, obviously, the wellbeing of the subject treated without incurring side effects.

Can you tell us about the history of nanopathology?

Nanopathology was born thanks to the casual observation with a physical technique of foreign bodies inside the liver and the kidneys of a patient who still had no diagnosis after 8 years of pain and strange symptoms (see Nanopathology: the health impact of nanoparticles,  PanStanford , 2008, 1-298). By means of scanning electron microscopic observations carried out with a novel technique, we detected particles of ceramic materials (porcelain) trapped in that patient’s internal organs. A following anamnestic work carried out directly with the patient helped us to understand the origin of the exposure he had undergone, an exposure that was still present.

By eliminating it and the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs, the liver and the kidneys were almost restored to their physiological functions. From that experience, and not without many difficulties, a new approach to Medicine started with nanopathology, with its electron-microscopy technique, and classical histopathology working together. The great scientific step forward was that of understanding the environmental origin of a number of old and new pathologies and, thanks to that newly-acquired knowledge, of being able to remove the problem from the patient’s life. Of course all that requires a sort of detective work to investigate the life and habits of the subject, very often analyzing environment, food, drugs and any other parameters deemed useful for the purpose, something that takes time, efforts and experience.

How do you implement this knowledge in medicine?

That represents a sort of revolutionary approach to the patients and their symptoms. According to nanopathology, the patient is considered not as a standard assembly of tissues and organs but in all his/her uniqueness. Rather often medical doctors talk about Personalized Medicine, but what they actually mean is a personalized medical treatment out of international protocols that do not really and fully consider all the personal characteristics of the patient and their combinations: previous medical history, age, family history, dwelling and working place, food, combined pharmacological treatment, etc.). The traditional anamnesis work does not consider, for example, crucial personal details related to environmental contamination of the house and neighborhood. That sometimes depends on the impossibility to have an official monitoring of the environment where the patient lives or works.

Most diagnoses are regularly issued comparing the symptoms declared by the patient, the data obtained by a series of tests such as, for example, X-rays and traditional blood and urine analyses, and the corresponding data listed in the pathology book. If there are symptoms that do not match with those in the lists, they are simply not considered by the doctors. What we do in nanopathology is a preliminary electron-microscopy analysis of the pathological tissues (biopsies, surgical samples, fluids sample). If the Scanning-Electron Microscope observations show the presence  of particles (foreign bodies), they are analyzed to assess their chemical composition. Than we seek the chemical elements making up those particles in the patient’s environment, in his/her food, drugs and whatever can get in touch with the organism, including seminal fluid, something that can be particularly revealing in males and, with an obviously different behaviour, in women. If “the point–of-no-return” has not been reached, removing the source of pollution from the patient or vice-versa results very often in a visible improvement of the health conditions and, sometimes, in a full recovery.

Do I have a nanopathology?

That is an almost daily question posed to me. My answer is always the same: If you have no clear diagnosis for your symptoms (for example, there is no agreement among doctors), the nanopathological approach can supply an answer. According to our database of about 3,000 cases, recognized pathologies like many types of cancer (soft- and hard-tissues, glands and lymph nodes), unexplained syndromes or rare diseases of often claimed but almost as often unproven genetic origin show foreign bodies in their tissues. This knowledge can be very useful to identify mechanisms of pathogenicity and do prevention: the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to prevent the onset of diseases. Then, but always as a second best and when it is possible, there is the pharmacological treatment.

Can you tell us about the diagnostic pathway of a nanopathological disease?

The diagnostic pathway is different from or complementary to that of current Medicine and biochemical analyses. In all the pathologies of unknown etiology the nanopathological approach must be tried. When a clear evidence of particulate matter in the pathological tissues is demonstrated by the nanopathologist or the environmental scientist, two different complementary actions must start: when possible, the elimination of the exposure, and an anti-inflammatory treatment when a medical/surgical approach can’t be undertaken. Cleaning the tissues from the particles is still a dream, though I am sure that something can be done.

Can a rare disease be a nanopathology?

Very few investigations were performed on rare diseases by our staff, since we did not receive samples either by patients or their families. We carried out a meaningful study on cryoglobulinemia and the results indicated the presence of particulate matter in the deposit of aggregated blood proteins (globulins). That is a case where a selective cleaning should be possible, of course and in any case accompanied by the elimination or the removal of the pollution source. Other cases were solved only identifying the particles in the tissues, hypothesizing the source of the contamination and the “doors” of entrance to the patient’s body. The results of this work together with the cues collected allowed us to understand the “unusual and strange” symptoms actually just the expression of the systemic presence of those foreign bodies. Chronic fatigue, a condition growing more and more common, can be one of those expressions.

What does the future hold for this approach?

This knowledge will allow a new, different, integrated and interdisciplinary approach to Medicine that will help understand and solve many so-called “mysterious” diseases. My personal hope is that new treatments of cleaning particularly of the blood and the body fluids are devised and made ready. That is part of the revolution: eliminate instead then add (drugs).

About Dr. Antonietta Gatti

Dr. Antonietta Gatti has an interdisciplinary background that ranges from physics, chemistry, biology, physiology , pathology and forensic pathology. Dr. Gatti has over 40 years of research experience in the field of biomaterials and biocompatibility at national and international levels in various capacities.

In 2002, Dr. Gatti was appointed as the coordinator of the European project called Nanopathology through which a new diagnostic tool was developed. The results of the project are described in her books Nanopathology, published by Pan Stanford Publishing (2008) and Case studies in nanotoxicology and particles toxicology by Elsevier (2015).

Dr. Gatti uses advanced scanning electron microscopy to identify nanoparticles in biological samples, organic matrices, in food, in water and in plants. The experience of Nanopathology led to a further European project called DIPNA (Nanotoxicology) again coordinated by Dr Gatti, to the Italian Projects (BATNAN, INESE and VENAM)  of Nanoecotoxicity.

Dr. Gatti is the author of about 240 articles in peer reviewed journals. She created the Laboratory of Biomaterials at the University of Modena. Currently she is a European authority in the fields of nanopathology (the human and animal pathologies triggered by micro and nanoparticles), nanotoxicology, nanoecotoxicology, environmental and war pollution and related diseases. She is also consultant of the Italian Government for the Depleted Uranium and related diseases.

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