Graphene, other carbon nanomaterials and the immune system: Toward nanoimmunity-by-design

Arianna Gazzi, Laura Fusco, Marco Orecchioni, Silvia Ferrari, Giulia Franzoni, J. Stephen Yan, Matthias Rieckher, Guotao Peng, Matteo Andrea Lucherelli, Isabella Anna Vacchi, Ngoc Do Quyen Chau, Alejandro Criado, Akcan Istif, Donato Mancino, Antonio Dominguez, Hagen Eckert, Ester Vázquez, Tatiana Da Ros, Paola Nicolussi, Vincenzo PalermoBjörn Schumacher, Gianaurelio Cuniberti, Yiyong Mai, Cecilia Clementi, Matteo Pasquali, Xinliang Feng, Kostas Kostarelos, Acelya Yilmazer, Davide Bedognetti, Bengt Fadeel, Maurizio Prato, Alberto Bianco, Lucia Gemma Delogu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Carbon-based materials (CBMs), such as graphene, nanodiamonds, carbon fibers, and carbon dots, have attracted a great deal scientific attention due to their potential as biomedical tools. Following exposure, particularly intravenous injection, these nanomaterials can be recognized by immune cells. Such interactions could be modulated by the different physicochemical properties of the materials (e.g. structure, size, and chemical functions), by either stimulating or suppressing the immune response. However, a harmonized cutting-edge approach for the classification of these materials based not only on their physicochemical parameters but also their immune properties has been missing. The European Commission-funded G-IMMUNOMICS and CARBO-IMmap projects aimed to fill this gap, developing a functional pipeline for the qualitative and quantitative immune characterization of graphene, graphene-related materials (GRMs), and other CBMs. The goal was to open breakthrough perspectives for the definition of the immune profiles of these materials. Here, we summarize our methodological approach, key results, and the necessary multidisciplinary expertise ranging across various fields, from material chemistry to engineering, immunology, toxicology, and systems biology. G-IMMUNOMICS, as a partnering project of the Graphene Flagship, the largest scientific research initiative on graphene worldwide, also complemented the studies performed in the Flagship on health and environmental impact of GRMs. Finally, we present the nanoimmunity-by-design concept, developed within the projects, which can be readily applied to other 2D materials. Overall, the G-IMMUNOMICS and CARBO-IMmap projects have provided new insights on the immune impact of GRMs and CBMs, thus laying the foundation for their safe use and future translation in medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034009
JournalJPhys Materials
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Carbon nanotubes
  • Graphene
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanosafety
  • Nanotoxicology
  • Single cell mass cytometry
  • Systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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