Plaque eating nanoparticle prevents heart attacks

Studies suggest a new Trojan horse nanoparticle can eat-up artery-narrowing plaque – a common cause of heart attacks.

Scientists at Michigan State University have invented a nanoparticle which devours the plaque which can lead to heart attacks. The particle, which has been dubbed a Trojan Horse has the potential to reduce the risks of most types of heart attacks [1].

Longevity.Technology: Once over the age of 40, people have a 50% chance of developing atherosclerosis; a drug that could reduce its consequences has the potential to counter one of the biggest risk factors for heart attacks.

Atherosclerosis, is a leading underlying cause of heart disease and occurs when plaque builds up and blocks the arteries. When it breaks away, it can cause clots which lead to a heart attack.

This new Michigan State nanoparticle, according to results published in Nature Nanotechnology [2], targets atherosclerotic plaque thanks to a high selectivity for certain types of immune cells, monocytes and macrophages. Once inside, it delivers a drug agent which stimulates the cells to eat cellular debris. In other words, it removes the diseased cells buried in the core of the plaque, reinvigorates the macrophages and reduces plaque size.

“We found we could stimulate the macrophages to selectively eat dead and dying cells – these inflammatory cells are precursor cells to atherosclerosis – that are part of the cause of heart attacks,” [2] said Bryan Smith associate professor of biomedical engineering at MSU. “We could deliver a small molecule inside the macrophages to tell them to begin eating again.”

Smith hopes future trials will prove it can reduce most types of heart attacks. The highly selective nature of the drug should mean there are relatively few side effects. While previous studies have focused on the surface of the cell, this new approach penetrates the cell and attacks from the inside out.

Smith has high hopes for the drug and believes it could have applications far beyond atherosclerosis. He has filed a provisional patent and plans to begin marketing it later this year.

Image credit: Image by Narupon PromvichaiPixabay