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New ‘nanoburrs’ could help fight heart disease

Targeted nanoparticles may be used to deliver drugs that help clear arteries

Story content courtesy of MIT News Office

Building on their previous work delivering cancer drugs with nanoparticles, MIT and Harvard researchers have turned their attention to cardiovascular disease, designing new particles that can cling to damaged artery walls and slowly release medicine.

The particles, dubbed “nanoburrs,” are coated with tiny protein fragments that allow them to stick to damaged arterial walls. Once stuck, they can release drugs such paclitaxel, which inhibits cell division and helps prevent growth of scar tissue that can clog arteries.

MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer and Omid Farokhzad, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and another senior author of the paper, have previously developed nanoparticles that seek out and destroy tumors. Their nanoburrs, however, are among the first particles that can zero in on damaged vascular tissue.

Because the particles can deliver drugs over a longer period of time, and can be injected intravenously, patients would not have to endure repeated and surgically invasive injections directly into the area that requires treatment, says Juliana Chan, a graduate student in Langer’s lab and lead author of the paper.

The team is now testing the nanoburrs in rats over a two-week period to determine the most effective dose for treating damaged vascular tissue. The particles may also prove useful in delivering drugs to tumors.

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