Nanoparticles — engineered packets that carry medicines, markers and signaling dyes around the body — have proven their value in delivering pharmaceuticals to cancer tumors. Now, scientists are aiming them at the heart.
At Rutgers University and other research centers, researchers have fashioned nanobits one-hundredth the size of a red blood cell, or about one thousand times thinner than a dollar bill, to cruise through arteries and bind to the fatty deposits of cholesterol that cling to vessel walls, block blood flow and ultimately can spark a heart attack.
After binding to the deposits, the particles release drugs to slow the plaque’s growth and ease the attendant inflammation afflicting the affected blood vessels. Other versions of the particles carry substances that mimic the body’s own “good” cholesterol, dissolving the plaque and washing it away to the liver, where it’s broken down.
Although still years away from human trials, the plaque-busting nanoparticles have proven successful in animal tests.