The activity of blood platelets has inspired the creation of a nanotherapeutic for dissolving potentially lethal vessel blockages. Tested in mice, the drug-coated nanoparticles targeted diseased blood vessels and reduced clots with a relatively small amount of active drug.
Though years away from human testing, the treatment extended the survival of the diseased mice and offers a new approach to targeted delivery of a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator to treat a range of life-threatening conditions such as heart attack and stroke that result from blockages. The nanotherapy could also combat clots with only a fraction of the drug amounts currently used to treat patients, potentially reducing bleeding risks and other side effects of antithrombotic therapies.
Developed at Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the drug-coated nanoparticles are designed to travel in the bloodstream in a cluster about the size of a blood platelet. When the clusters reach a narrowed area of a blood vessel, increased shear stress causes bundles to break apart and home in on and dissolve blockages. Due to side effect risks, clinicians must closely monitor patients on current clot-busters such as warfarin. Dr. Donald Ingber, director of the Wyss Institute, told Bloomberg that his group's nanotherapeutic particles deliver about one-fiftieth the amount of drug typically given to patients.
"People have wanted to figure out targeting, but they haven't come up with a way," Ingber told the news service. "We knew platelets can somehow go to narrowing vessels, and thought if biology can do it, somehow we can do it."