Medical

Nanoparticle helps eat away deadly arterial plaque

Nanoparticle helps eat away de...
A diagram depicting the nanoparticles' carbon nanotubes at work on a plaque deposit
A diagram depicting the nanoparticles' carbon nanotubes at work on a plaque deposit
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A diagram depicting the nanoparticles' carbon nanotubes at work on a plaque deposit
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A diagram depicting the nanoparticles' carbon nanotubes at work on a plaque deposit

As many readers will already know, atherosclerotic plaque-deposits on the inner walls of arteries are a frequent cause of heart attacks and strokes. A newly-developed nanoparticle could help minimize those deposits, as it prompts the body's own cells to "eat" them.

Developed via a collaboration between scientists at Michigan State University and Stanford University, the nanoparticle contains single-walled carbon nanotubes that are loaded with a drug known as an SHP1 inhibitor. The idea is that a solution containing the nanoparticles will be introduced to a patient intravenously, proceeding to flow through their bloodstream.

Once the nanoparticles encounter a plaque deposit, they act upon immune cells inside of it, known as macrophages – they are a type of white blood cell that specializes in engulfing and destroying pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.

The drug contained in the nanotubes works by inhibiting the SHP1 signalling pathway within the macrophages. Ordinarily, that pathway stops the cells from consuming apoptotic (dead) cells and cell debris, which make up the core of plaque deposits. With the SHP1 temporarily shut off, however, the macrophages are free to chow down on the stuff.

Heart attacks and strokes typically occur when one of the cores ruptures, with the resulting plaque detritus clogging the artery and blocking the blood flow to the heart or brain. When that core has been eaten, though, what remains of the deposit is smaller, more stable, and unlikely to rupture.

Additionally, unlike some other other experimental plaque-reduction treatments that harm healthy tissue, the nanoparticles only clear out dead cell material. This means that little if any unwanted side effects should occur. In fact, the therapy has already been successfully trialled on mice.

"We demonstrated the nanomaterials were able to selectively seek out and deliver a message to the very cells needed," says Michigan State's Assoc. Prof. Bryan Smith. "It gives a particular energy to our future work, which will include clinical translation of these nanomaterials using large animal models and human tissue tests."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: Michigan State University

10 comments
guzmanchinky
The number one killer. These types of treatment could be world changing. I get my heart scanned once every few years to make sure I have no buildup. But we better come up with the male birth control pill soon if we get too good at keeping people alive well into their 90's...
Jamie McErlain
Quote: "Heart attacks and strokes ypically occur when one of the cores ruptures, with the resulting plaque detritus clogging the artery and blocking the blood flow to the heart or brain" .
The above statement is not correct. What actually happens after the rupture occurs is that the interior of the Artery wall bleeds in the same way as your skin bleeds after a scab is picked. All wounds such as these cause a coagulant to be emitted (nature's way to stop you bleeding to death). Unfortunately the coagulant also affects the passing blood within the Artery and causes a clot to form. It's is this clot which stops/blocks the blood flow and causes the Heart Attack.
michele
Wow! When will it be ready for use?
JoeMama
This may help men with ED due to reduced blood flow. Interesting work.
robert85
Implied is the possibility to open up any blood flow area which means clogged vessels leading to ED or existing heart blockages may be removed. Dead heart tissue may not revive with new blood flow but the natural downstream flow could be restored to other live tissues to reduce cascading outcomes. Am I understanding the implications correctly?
BlueOak
guzmanchinky says: "But we better come up with the male birth control pill soon if we get too good at keeping people alive well into their 90's..."

... or you could stay married or date women your own age.
ljaques
The picture cracks me up. I've used microphages, it appears. https://amzn.com/B000H5S8XY . LOL // Well, I hope they can figure out how to get those back out of the body so we don't build up nano waste dumps inside.
JohnSawyer
ljaques: The red discs in the illustration depict red blood cells--the macrophages are the fluffy white things. But the 'Little Red Caps' that you link to, sure do look like huge red blood cells.
RobertElliot
It seems like a major breakthrough but will be too late for me I'm afraid
paul314
Is there a chance that macrophages chomping down the core that holds a plaque together will lead to it breaking apart and occluding a vein or artery somewhere downstream? That would be an unanticipated consequence.