Pulse 137: Nanotechnology for Treatment of Atherosclerosis

4 February 2020
Giulio Prisco

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis, the accumulation of plaque inside artery walls that can lead to heart attacks and strokes, is the world’s No. 1 killer. A new drug-coated nanoparticle has been shown to reduce atherosclerotic plaque buildup in mouse arteries without causing harmful side effects (see below).

"This is precision medicine," says professor Nicholas Leeper in a Stanford University press release. "We used the nanotubes to deliver a payload like a Trojan horse."

"We were able to marry a groundbreaking finding in atherosclerosis by our collaborators with the state-of-the-art selectivity and delivery capabilities of our advanced nanomaterial platform," says associate professor Bryan Smith in a Michigan State University press release. "We demonstrated the nanomaterials were able to selectively seek out and deliver a message to the very cells needed."

"It gives a particular energy to our future work, which will include clinical translation of these nanomaterials using large animal models and human tissue tests," continues Smith. "We believe it is better than previous methods."

Nanoparticles Eat Away Atherosclerotic Plaque

Michigan State University and Stanford University scientists have invented a nanoparticle that eats away - from the inside out - portions of plaques that cause heart attacks. The scientists created a "Trojan Horse" drug-coated nanoparticle that can be directed to eat debris, reducing and stabilizing plaque in the arteries of laboratory mice.

A research paper published in Nature Nanotechnology showcases the nanoparticle, which homes in on atherosclerotic plaque due to its high selectivity to a particular immune cell type. The scientists are persuaded that this discovery could open the door to new treatments for atherosclerosis, a leading cause of death in the United States.

Americans Optimistic About Genetic Medicine

As genetics and genomics knowledge expands rapidly throughout research, medicine, and society, Americans are excited and optimistic about this area of research and its emerging health applications.

This is according to a new survey released by the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) in partnership with Research!America. 78 percent of the participants believe it is positive that researchers will use genetics to find cures for key diseases like cancer or Alzheimer's.

Brain Senescence Damages Memory Neurons

Researchers at Buck Institute for Research on Aging have found that cellular senescence in astrocytes, the most abundant cell type in the brain, leads to damaging toxicity in cortical neurons that are involved in memory.

Cellular senescence is a process whereby cells that stop dividing under stress spew out a mix of inflammatory proteins. A study published in PLOS ONE analyzes the underlying mechanisms that drive the toxicity, and identifies targets that may be of use in drug development.

Massive Impact of Brain Stimulation for Depression

Researchers at University of Calgary have completed a study investigating the effects of different methods of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for treatment-resistant depression. Two methods were investigated: short pulse and long pulse stimulation.

The findings are detailed in a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry. They show that both methods of stimulation were equally safe and effective in reducing depressive symptoms. The researchers report that some study participants experienced a massive “life changing” positive impact.

Reprogramming Cells for Regenerative Medicine

Scientists at National University of Singapore have found a way to induce totipotency in embryonic cells that have already matured into pluripotency. Totipotency is the ability to generate the entire organism. Pluripotency is the ability to differentiate into all cell types within the embryo.

The research results are described in a research paper published in Nature Cell Biology. According to the scientists, they have great potential to improve cell engineering capabilities for regenerative medicine therapeutics.

Superfast NMR Follows Cell Changes in Real Time

Scientists at Goethe University, with the collaboration of researchers from Israel, have succeeded in accelerating a hundred thousand-fold the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method for investigating RNA. The improved method is described in a study published in PNAS.

Thanks to it, scientists are now able to follow almost inconceivably tiny structural changes in cells as they progress. Progress may be tracked both temporally and spatially.

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