Michigan researchers target cardiac arrhythmia-causing cells with nanoparticles and light

Cardiac myocyte cell with fibroblast cell in a rat heart injected with the new nanoparticle. Red color indicates the dead myocyte with unharmed green fibroblast.--Courtesy of U. of Michigan

Cardiac arrhythmia is the result of a specific kind of cell's presence in the heart that causes the organ to beat irregularly. And researchers from the University of Michigan have developed a nanoparticle that can target and destroy those cells without doing harm to the healthy cells in the heart.

Many of the drugs currently used to treat cardiac arrhythmia have serious side effects, according to a MedicalXpress report, and surgery can have damaging effects. The scientists therefore created a nanoparticle small enough to penetrate the capillaries inside the heart while also being able to hold a chemical marker for the offending cells. Once marked with the chemical, a red light can be used to destroy only those cells without harming the unmarked ones.

"The great thing about this treatment is that it's precise down to the level of individual cells," lead author Raoul Kopelman said in a statement. "Drugs spread all over the body and high-power lasers char the tissue in the heart. This treatment is much easier and much safer."

The nanoparticle itself is made of polyethylene glycol and has 8 tentacles that hold onto the chemical marker. The whole thing is tagged with a peptide that targets the disease-causing cells.

The researchers published their work in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

- here's the MedicalXpress story
- get the research abstract