Novel nanoparticle shape helps get drugs to hardened arteries

Swiss researchers have come up with a new way to target drug delivery to hardened arteries and spare healthy ones. By shaping nanoparticles like lenses, the scientists can ensure that they break apart only in constricted arteries.

The research team, from the universities of Geneva and Basel, developed a lipid-based nanocarrier to transport blood-vessel-dilating treatments. While vasodilator drugs are effective in opening up clogged arteries, they do the same to healthy ones, which can lead to dangerous drops in blood pressure, Everyday Health reports. So the scientists came up with a way to ensure that the drugs reach only their targets.

By shaping the nanocarriers like lenses, the vessels can pass easily through open arteries until they reach blockages. Once there, the capsules break apart under the shear stress of the clogged artery, releasing their drug payloads into the targeted areas while leaving healthy tissue unscathed. The nanocarriers' shape and component molecules render them especially sensitive to the shear force created by constricted blood flow, making them more effective than traditional lipid-based capsules that would be unfazed by the change in pressure, Genetic Engineering News reports.

So far, the method has proved stable in tests with an artificial cardiovascular system, but the researchers are a ways away from in vitro trials. The research team, led by the University of Geneva's Andreas Zumbhehl, reported its results in Nature Nanotechnology this month, and says the initial proof-of-concept trial will require significant further study.

- read the abstract in Nature Nanotechnology
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check out Everyday Health's report