Are Nanoparticles Potential Gamechangers for Treating Clogged Arteries?

A team of researchers have created what they say is a type of nanoparticle that eats away at cellular debris, thereby reducing and stabilizing artery plaque.

The scientists, from Michigan State University and Stanford University, published a paper in Nature Nanotechnology, showing results from what they called a “Trojan horse” nanoparticle that once injected into a cell can consume plaque from the inside out.

“We found we could stimulate the macrophages to selectively eat dead and dying cells – these inflammatory cells are precursor cells to atherosclerosis – that are part of the cause of heart attacks,” Dr. Bryan Smith, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan State University, said in a press release. “We could deliver a small molecule inside the macrophages to tell them to begin eating again.”

Nanoparticles Are a “Trojan Horse” for Plaque Treatment

According to the paper abstract, the treatment is based on single-walled carbon nanotubes that contain a chemical inhibitor of the antiphagocytic CD47-SIRPα signalling axis, resulting in an accumulation in the plaque cells, reactivation of the process of lesional phagocytosis, and a reduction in plaque burden in the study’s mouse models. The authors said that after a single-cell RNA sequencing analysis, they observed that the prophagocytic nanotubes decreased inflammatory gene expression linked to cytokine and chemokine pathways in lesional macrophages, thereby treating the cell from the inside out.

“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. We demonstrated the nanomaterials were able to selectively seek out and deliver a message to the very cells needed,” Smith said. “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. We believe it is better than previous methods.”