Cardiovascular disease is a massive problem as it is killing nearly 20 million people around the globe each year. But researchers at Michigan State University are thinking very small about new ways to fight heart disease.
It’s a big idea that uses very tiny particles. Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fats and cholesterol on and in the artery walls. Over time, that can impair the flow of blood.
The plaques can also break off suddenly, causing a heart attack.
MSU’s research tries to attack that problem from the inside out.
In a lab on the campus of MSU, researchers are developing medicine you can’t see, at least with the naked eye.
“They’re only about three or four atoms across as they’re very small,” said Dr. Bryan Smith.
Smith is designing nanomedicines, tiny particles that can potentially treat heart disease and other medical conditions like cancer.
“It’s something that can help humanity,” Smith said.
Smith says there are tremendous opportunities for nanomedicine to impact cardiovascular diseases.
“It’s the number one killer of people in the U.S. and actually globally as well,” Smith said.
The nanoparticles being studied stimulate cells known as macrophages to eat up cellular trash inside the plaque, reducing its size.
Researchers are testing the nanoparticles in mice and pigs. They eventually hope to do human trials.
“We are hoping that it can get translated clinically and the patients can be benefited using this therapy,” said MSU Research Associate Dr. Manisha Kumari.
The hope is to have the tiny science transform into global potential.
Researchers have shown in preclinical trials that Nano therapy decreases plaque size, stabilizes plaques, and lowers inflammation in that area.
If that’s proven out in clinical trials, it could help patients reverse atherosclerosis, along with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
It seems like this has a lot of potential for many diseases; as Smith says, in the United States and Europe combined, there are about 350 clinical trials involving cancer and nanoparticles.
That’s compared to about 25 involving cardiovascular nanoparticles. So we’re on the early edges of this. But it is definitely something to watch.