This study shows how to chomp away plaques that cause heart attacks

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A recent study at Michigan State University and Stanford University invented a nanoparticle that eats away — from the inside out — portions of plaques that cause heart attacks.

Researchers created a “Trojan Horse” nanoparticle that can be directed to eat debris, reducing and stabilizing plaque. Basically, it removes the diseased/dead cells in the plaque core.

The discovery could be a potential treatment for atherosclerosis, a leading cause of death in the United States.

The study is published in Nature Nanotechnology. One author is Dr. Bryan Smith.

In the study, the team focused on intercepting the signaling of the receptors in a certain type of immune cell macrophages and sending a message via small molecules using nano-immunotherapeutic platforms.

Previous studies have acted on the surface of the cells, but this new approach works intracellularly and has been effective in stimulating macrophages.

The team found they 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.

They could deliver a small molecule inside the macrophages to tell them to begin eating again.

This approach also has applications beyond atherosclerosis.

The researchers found the nanomaterials were able to selectively seek out and deliver a message to the very cells needed.

They say that future clinical trials on the nanoparticle are expected to reduce the risk of most types of heart attacks, with minimal side effects due to the unprecedented selectivity of the nano-drug.

They have filed a provisional patent and will begin marketing it.

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