Drug-device combo from Wyss takes a new approach on treating stroke

Scientists at the Wyss Institute have led the development of a new drug-device combo aimed at swiftly dissolving blood clots in the brain that cause stroke.

The key to the new approach are biodegradable nanoparticles that are coated with a "clot-busting" drug dubbed tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which are designed to mimic the activity of blood platelets. They use a stent to open up a narrow opening in a blocked blood vessel. The nanoparticles then start to accumulate on the vessel walls, like normal platelets. And the force of the new blood flow activates the therapeutic, dissolving the clot.

The scientific team was led by Wyss Institute Founding Director Dr. Donald Ingber and University of Massachusetts Medical Professor of Radiology Dr. Ajay Wakhloo, building on research that goes back three years. They add that this approach has proven effective in large animal studies. Their results were published online in the journal Stroke.

"What's progressive about this approach is that the temporary opening of a tiny hole in the clot--using a stent device that is already commonly used clinically--results in a local rise in mechanical forces that activate the nanotherapeutic to deploy the clot-busting drug precisely where it can best do its job," said Ingber, who is also a professor of bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, in a release.

Netanel Korin, a former Wyss technology development fellow and current assistant professor in biomedical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel, who first described the nanotherapeutic three years ago, adds that the same technology can be used to treat a variety of life-threatening clots. And the team notes that this new approach should also steer clear of the threats associated with current procedures.

"Even with the retriever thrombectomy procedure, not all clots can be removed with a successful outcome," said Matthew Gounis, an associate professor of radiology at UMass, in a release. "Clot fragments can be dislodged, which can lead to microclots and tissue damage downstream in the brain circulatory system, and physical dragging of the stent through the vessel can potentially be damaging as well."

- here's the release
- read the research abstract