CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School have built targeted nanoparticles that can cling to artery walls and slowly release medicine, an advance that potentially provides an alternative to drug-releasing stents in some patients with cardiovascular disease.
The particles, dubbed "nanoburrs" because they are coated with tiny protein fragments that allow them to stick to target proteins, can be designed to release their drug payload over several days. They are one of the first such particles that can precisely home in on damaged vascular tissue, says Omid Farokhzad, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an author of a paper describing the nanoparticles in the Jan. 18 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Farokhzad and MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer, also an author of the paper, have previously developed nanoparticles that seek out and destroy tumors.
The nanoburrs are targeted to a specific structure, known as the basement membrane, which lines the arterial walls and is only exposed when those walls are damaged. Therefore, the nanoburrs could be used to deliver drugs to treat atherosclerosis and other inflammatory cardiovascular diseases. In the current study, the team used paclitaxel, a drug that inhibits cell division and helps prevent the growth of scar tissue that can clog arteries.
"This is a very exciting example of nanotechnology and cell targeting in action that I hope will have broad ramifications," says Langer.
The researchers hope the particles could become a complementary approach that can be used with vascular stents, which are the standard of care for most cases of clogged and damaged arteries, or in lieu of stents in areas not well suited to them, such as near a fork in the artery.
The particles, which are spheres 60 nanometers in diameter, consist of three layers: an inner core containing a complex of the drug and a polym
|Contact: Jen Hirsch|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology