Drug-carrying nanoparticles disguised as platelets could help heal blood vessels

Platelet nanoparticles in an artery (left) and an individual particle (right)--Courtesy of UCSD

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have developed nanoparticles that could act as human platelets in the blood, helping drugs that treat cardiovascular disease and bacterial infections.

Platelets normally convene at the site of a wound, be it a ruptured blood vessel or one infected by bacteria. By creating synthetic platelets that perform the same task with a drug in tow, the researchers have made a delivery platform with similar targeting ability. They demonstrated this in animal models.

The nanoparticles themselves are spheres with human platelet membranes on the outside to disguise them as they travel through the bloodstream. Originally, the team had planned to coat nanoparticles in red-blood-cell membranes, which also showed promise, according to an article from Nanotechnology Now.

"This work addresses a major challenge in the field of nanomedicine: targeted drug delivery with nanoparticles," senior author Liangfang Zhang said in a statement. "Because of their targeting ability, platelet-mimicking nanoparticles can directly provide a much higher dose of medication specifically to diseased areas without saturating the entire body with drugs."

The scientists loaded the synthetic platelets with the cancer drug docetaxel, also used to prevent the formation of scar tissue in damaged blood vessels. In rats, the nanoparticles collected at the sites of damaged arteries, delivering the drug there. Antibiotics also proved a successful treatment to be carried by the false platelets.

"Our platelet-mimicking nanoparticles can increase the therapeutic efficacy of antibiotics because they can focus treatment on the bacteria locally without spreading drugs to healthy tissues and organs throughout the rest of the body," Zhang said. "We hope to develop platelet-mimicking nanoparticles into new treatments for systemic bacterial infections and cardiovascular disease."

- here's the Nanotechnology Now article