UCSB researchers have developed a nanoparticle capable of attacking atherosclerotic plaques, which accumulate in the arteries and can cause heart attack or stroke. The researchers’ conclusions appear in a recent issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. The team aims to use the newly-developed nanoparticle to build therapies for treating individuals with cardiovascular disease.

Atherosclerotic plaque is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, which is responsible for a third of deaths in the United States each year.

In order to develop the nanoparticle that targets these plaques, the researchers induced the plaques in mice by keeping them on high-fat diets, and injected the mice with nanoparticles called micelles, or lipid-based molecules. They found that the micelles were in fact targeting the correct areas of the plaques.

Matthew Tirrell, dean of the UCSB College of Engineering, explained the utility and efficacy of the nanoparticles that have been recently developed.

“We think that self-assembled micelles [of peptide amphiphiles] of the sort we have used in this work are the most versatile, flexible nanoparticles for delivering diagnostic and therapeutic biofunctionality in vivo,” he said in a press release. “The ease with which small particles, with sufficiently long circulation times and carrying peptides that target and treat pathological tissue, can be constructed by self-assembly is an important advantage.”

The research was funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

UCSB researchers include: Tirrell, Erkki Ruoslahti, Venkata Ramana Kotamraju, Kunal Gujraty and David Peters of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research; Mark Kastantin of the Department of Chemical Engineering; and Priya P. Karmali of the Cancer Research Center, Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla.


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