Novel nanoparticle can spot and treat deadly heart disease

New York, March 14 (IANS) Offering a potential new approach to preventing deadly heart attacks and strokes, Indian-origin researchers have designed a synthetic nanoparticle that can simultaneously light up invisible plaque build up inside the arteries and also treat it.

Plaque build up inside arteries that generally goes unnoticed can lead to atherosclerosis — a prolific and invisible killer.

Current detection strategies often fail to identify dangerous plaques, which can clog arteries over time or break off from arterial walls and block blood flow, causing a heart attack or stroke.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers a potential approach for plaque visualisation, but requires the use of a contrast agent to show the atherosclerotic plaques clearly.

The new nanoparticle functionally mimics nature’s own high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so called “good cholesterol”, to simultaneously light up and treat atherosclerotic plaques.

“Other researchers have shown that if you isolate HDL components from donated blood, reconstitute them and inject them into animals, there seems to be a therapeutic effect,” said one of the researchers, Shanta Dhar from the University of Georgia, Athens, US.

“However, with donors’ blood, there is the chance of immunological rejection. This technology also suffers scale-up challenges. Our motivation was to avoid immunogenic factors by making a synthetic nanoparticle which can functionally mimic HDL. At the same time, we wanted a way to locate the synthetic particles,” Dhar explained.

The findings were presented at the ongoing 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Diego.

HDL is widely known as “good” cholesterol because of its ability to pull low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, out of plaques.

This process shrinks the plaques, making them less likely to clog arteries or break apart.

To simultaneously identify and treat atherosclerosis without triggering an immune response, Dhar and Bhabatosh Banik, a post-doctoral fellow in her lab, created an MRI-active HDL mimic.

Dhar said her lab is now using MRI to study how well the particles light up and treat plaques in animals, and she hopes to begin clinical trials within two years.

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