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New ‘Nanoburrs’ Could Help Fight Heart Disease

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Image Credit: MIT

Researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School have built targeted nanoparticles that can cling to artery walls and slowly release medicine, an advance that potentially provides an alternative to drug-releasing stents in some patients with cardiovascular disease. The particles, dubbed “nanoburrs” because they are coated with tiny protein fragments that allow them to stick to target proteins, can be designed to release their drug payload over several days. The nanoburrs are targeted to a specific structure, known as the basement membrane, which lines the arterial walls and is only exposed when those walls are damaged. Therefore, the nanoburrs could be used to deliver drugs to treat atherosclerosis and other inflammatory cardiovascular diseases. They are one of the first such targeted particles that can precisely home in on damaged vascular tissue, says Omid Farokhzad, associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Farokhzad and MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer have previously developed nanoparticles that seek out and destroy tumorsThe researchers hope the particles could become a complementary approach that can be used with vascular stents, which are the standard of care for most cases of clogged and damaged arteries, or in lieu of stents in areas not well suited to them, such as near a fork in the artery.