Soon it may be possible to prevent heart attacks by an injection of nano-particles into the bloodstream, according to the newest research paper from the scientists at Columbia University Medical Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. A large part of that is atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This occurs as plaques build up along the inside of the arterial wall. The research team created targeted nano-particles designed to heal atherosclerosis. This is the latest discovery in a growing field of pint-sized medical discoveries. We’ve seen robots that can swim inside your eyeball and smart pills, but nothing as small as this nano-treatment.
These activated nano-particles are tiny. At only one nanometer, they are 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They work to prevent heart attacks and strokes by releasing peptides that target the plaques built up inside the arterial wall. If a plaque were to break off from the arterial wall, then it could cause a heart attack, embolism, or stroke. The nano-particles can not only stabilize the plaque, but they are able to heal the inflammation associated with the damaged site on the artery. This reduces the possibility of additional plaque building up along the same site.
Inflammation occurs naturally as the human body ages, and has been tied to increase risks of many diseases, including heart attack-inducing atherosclerosis. Traditional treatment using anti-inflammatory drugs can lead to immunosuppression and isn’t ideal for long-term treatment. These new nano-particles were able to go in and get the job done with only five weeks of treatment. You may wonder what happens to these nano-particles after they’ve run their course. They are designed to break down in the body naturally using biodegradable polymers.
These nano-particles have only been tested in mice, which is an inherently different situation from human testing. For one thing, mice don’t have heart attacks, so it’s only a conjecture that these nano-particles will be able to prevent heart attacks in humans. The research team also hopes to apply this technology to wound repair and other bodily processes where inflammation is an issue.
The research team released a video explaining the mechanisms of the treatment.