American scientists find nanoparticle that prevents heart attacks by eating plaques

Washington, 3 February 2020 –

American scientists have invented a nanoparticle that removes parts of plaques that cause cardiac issues.

Science Daily has published the work of Michigan State University (MSU) and Stanford University (SU) scientists on the nanoparticle that eats away portions of plaques that cause heart attacks.

MSU Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Bryan Smith and a team of scientists created a ‘Trojan Horse’ nanoparticle they can guide to eat debris. This reduces and stabilises the collected plaque.

This discovery could spur treatment for atherosclerosis, a leading cause of death in the United States.

Nature Nanotechnology’s latest issue first published the study results. It shows the nanoparticle targets atherosclerotic plaque due to its high selectivity to a particular immune cell type — monocytes and macrophages.

Once inside the macrophages in those plaques, it delivers a drug agent that stimulates the cell to engulf and eat cellular debris. It removes the diseased and dead cells in the plaque core.  Reinvigorating the macrophages reduces plaque size and stabilises it.

Smith expects future clinical nanoparticle trials to reduce the risk of most types of heart attacks with slight side effects because of the unprecedented selectivity of the nanodrug.

How does the nanoparticle work?

Smith’s studies focus on intercepting the signalling of the receptors in the 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 intra-cellularly and has been effective in stimulating macrophages.

“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,” says Smith. “We could deliver a small molecule inside the macrophages to tell them to begin eating again.”

This approach also has applications beyond atherosclerosis, he says.

Our studies show the nanomaterials selectively seek out and deliver a message to specific cells. This opens the way to our future work. This will include clinical translation of nanomaterials using large animal models and human tissue tests. We believe it is better than previous methods.”

Smith has filed a provisional patent and will begin marketing it later this year.

News source: Michigan State University.

Journal Reference: Alyssa M. Flores, Niloufar Hosseini-Nassab, Kai-Uwe Jarr, Jianqin Ye, Xingjun Zhu, Robert Wirka, Ai Leen Koh, Pavlos Tsantilas, Ying Wang, Vivek Nanda, Yoko Kojima, Yitian Zeng, Mozhgan Lotfi, Robert Sinclair, Irving L. Weissman, Erik Ingelsson, Bryan Ronain Smith, Nicholas J. Leeper. Pro-efferocytic nanoparticles are specifically taken up by lesional macrophages and prevent atherosclerosis. Nature Nanotechnology, 2020.