New nanoparticles zoom in on heart disease

Cambridge, MASSACHUSETTS — Researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School have introduced the first-of-its-kind targeted nanoparticles that can precisely home in and treat damaged vascular tissue. Dubbed “nanoburrs” because they are coated with tiny protein fragments that allow them to stick to target proteins, these nanoparticles are capable of clinging to artery walls and can be designed to release medicine over several days.

Nanoburrs could be used to deliver drugs to treat atherosclerosis and other inflammatory cardiovascular diseases. The researchers hope the particles could become a complementary approach that can be used with vascular stents, which are the standard of care for most cases of clogged and damaged arteries, or in lieu of stents in areas not well suited to them, such as near a fork in the artery.

The drug can be released on controlled timing, and so far, researchers have been able to achieve drug release over 12 days, in tests in cultured cells. Because the particles have the potential to deliver drugs over a longer period of time, and can be injected intravenously, patients would not have to endure repeated and surgically invasive injections directly into the area that requires treatment, according to Juliana Chan, a graduate student in Langer’s lab and lead author of the paper.

Further information: “Spatiotemporal controlled delivery of nanoparticles to injured vasculature,” Juliana Chan, Liangfang Zhang, Rong Tong, Debuyati Ghosh, Weiwei Gao, Grace Liao, Kai Yuet, David Gray, June-Wha Rhee, Jianjun Cheng, Gershon Golomb, Peter Libby, Robert Langer, Omid Farokhzad. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, week of Jan. 18, 2010.

Adapted from Massachusetts Institute of Technology press release. 

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