Nanotechnology vs. Heart Disease
The use of nanotechnology to treat heart disease offers some exciting
possibilities, including the ability to:
- treat defective heart valves
and treat arterial plaque
- understand at a sub-cellular level how heart tissue functions in
both healthy and damaged organs, which can help researchers
The next section provides examples of the different types of research in the use
of nanotechnology to treat heart disease that are underway.
Nanotechnology-based Treatments for Heart Disease: Applications under Development
Researchers at the University of South Florida are testing the use of
nanoparticles containing mRNA to heal the
surface of arteries after the insertion of stents.
Researchers at Texas Heart Institute are developing a method to apply
nanotube fibers to damaged heart
tissue to repair the electrical conductivity of the damaged tissue.
Researchers at North Carolina State University are developing a method to
deliver cardiac stem cells to damaged
heart tissue. They attach nanovesicles that are attracted to an injury to
the stem cells to increase the amount of stem cells delivered to an injured
Researchers at the University of Georgia are working with nanoparticles that are
both artificial HDL and contain a MRI
contrasting agent (iron oxide). The researchers are now conducting animal
studies to determine how well the artifical HDL treats arterial plaque.
Researchers at the University of Santa Barbara have developed a
nanoparticle that can deliver drugs to plaque on the wall of
an artery. They attach a protein called a peptide to a nanoparticle, which
then binds with the surface of the plaque. The researchers
plan to use these nanoparticles to deliver imaging particles and
drugs to both determine the amount of existing arterial plaque and treat the condition.
For more about this, see the
article at this
Researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School have attached a
different peptide to a drug-carrying nanoparticle. This
peptide binds to a membrane that is exposed in damaged artery walls,
allowing the nanoparticle to release a drug at the site of the
damage. The drug helps prevent the growth of scar tissue that can clog arteries. For more
about this method, see the article at this
Researchers at the University of South Carolina and Clemson are
combining gold nanoparticles with a protein called collagen. If heart valves have the wrong level of collagen in
the tissue of the valve it may effect their functioning. Too much collagen makes the valve stiff,
little collagen makes the valve floppy. Combining gold nanoparticles
with collagen changes the mechanical properties of the valve, offering the
possibility of repairing defective heart valves without surgery. For
more about this, see the article at this
Researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London
are using a scanning ion conductance microscope (SICM), a new device
which helps produce better images of live heart muscle cells than previously
possible. They use a nanopipet to insert drugs that activate beta
molecules in certain portions of cells. These beta molecules cause the heart to
contract. This method helps the researchers understand the differences between damaged and healthy heart
muscle cells which could lead to improvements both in the use of
current drugs called beta-blockers and in the design of future
treatments. For more about this, see the article at this
While white blood cells are supposed to protect us from harmful
intruders, when they attack LDL molecules they can actually cause plaque
deposits on artery walls. Researchers at Rutgers have developed a nanoparticle called a nanolipoblocker
that is designed to attach itself to white blood cells to block them from
attacking LDL cholesterol molecules. For
more about this, see the article at this
Lab studies in mice have shown that using nanoparticles to target the
delivery of the clot busting drug tPA can reduce the dosage of tPA
needed, which may reduce possible side affects, such as internal
bleeding. The clot busting drug was attached to a cluster of
nanoparticles that break apart
in regions of turbulent blood flow, like that found when a blood
flow is restricted by a clot.
Nanoparticles containing iron oxide that allows the nanoparticles to be directed, by a
magnetic field, to stents. This could allow drugs to be delivered directly to stents placed in arteries.
Nanoparticles that target proteins common to blood clots have been
developed to deliver bismuth to clots and unstable plaque in the
bloodstream. The bismuth is used to enhance CAT scan images and the
technique been demonstrated to provide images of clots in lab tests of
mice. Researchers hope to use this technique to identify the location of
clots as well as
unstable plaque that could break off and block arteries.
Researchers are developing polymer nanoparticles that home in on
such as plaque and dissolve, releasing drugs, in the presence of
hydrogen peroxide that is present in the inflamed tissue.
Researchers are using carbon nanotubes to change adult stem cells
into a type of
cell that may help heal damaged heart tissue.