Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside the body’s arteries, the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other organs of the body. Plaque is made up of white immune blood cells, known as macrophages, fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. As this plaque hardens it narrows the arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood around the body. This, in turn, can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death. Now, a study from researchers led by Michigan State University engineers a nanoparticle that eats away, from the inside out, plaques that cause heart attacks. The team states their nanoparticle reduces and stabilizes plaque, providing a potential treatment for atherosclerosis, a leading cause of death in the United States. The study is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Previous studies show macrophages have emerged as the main protagonists of atherosclerosis and its complications initiated by an unhealthy lifestyle. Macrophages amass in lesions along the arteries, ingesting lipids, and producing inflammatory mediators that exacerbate disease. Pro-phagocytic therapies, which use phagocytosis, an immune mechanism where cells engulf and remove large particles, are currently being explored to stimulate the phagocytic clearance of these lesional macrophages; however, these therapies can damage healthy tissue, which may lead to toxicities such as anemia. The current study develops a pro-phagocytic nanoparticle that delivers a macrophage-specific nanotherapy that clears atherosclerotic plaque safely in mice.
The current study develops a nanoparticle that eats atherosclerotic plaque using single-walled carbon nanotubes loaded with macrophage-specific nanotherapy. Results show the nanoparticles accumulate in the atherosclerotic plaque, activating phagocytosis, where the macrophages engulf and destroy the plaque in mice safely. Data findings show that pro-phagocytic nanoparticles decrease the expression of inflammatory genes linked to cytokine and chemokine pathways in lesional macrophages, a major component of atherosclerotic plaque.
The group explains their nanoparticle hones in on atherosclerotic plaque due to its high selectivity to monocytes and macrophage immune cells. They go on to add that once inside the macrophages in those plaques, it delivers a drug agent that reactivates macrophages, causing them to engulf and eat cellular debris, removing the diseased/dead cells in the plaque core.
The team surmises they have developed a nanoparticle capable of performing phagocytosis on plaques that cause heart attacks. For the future, the researchers state they now plan to test their nanotherapy using large animal models and human tissue tests.
Source: Michigan State University
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