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Saturday, 23 January 2010 21:50

Clear your clogged arteries with nanoburrs

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U.S. lead researchers from MIT and Harvard University have developed nanoparticles called nanoburrs that attach to damaged arteries and release medicine to open clogged arteries and repair injured ones. The new nanoparticles could vastly improve the repair and treatment of such cardiovascular problems in humans.


Their research is published in the January 19, 2010 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The article is titled “Spatiotemporal controlled delivery of nanoparticles to injured vasculature” (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0914585107).

And, its lead authors are Dr. Robert Langer (Department of Chemical Engineering and Division of Health Science and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge) and Dr. Omid C. Farokhzad (Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials, Department of Anesthesiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts).

Their collaborators in the research and paper are from the University of California at San Diego, University of Illinois, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They state in the abstract to their paper that their work in designing nanoparticles for medical applications has major challenges. One such challenge is to find the optimal size of nanoparticles that are designed to be delivered to artery walls.

To develop nanoparticles that can deliver cancer drugs to artery walls, these researchers created what they call “nanoburrs.”

Page two describes nanoburrs, and how the MIT and Harvard researchers use them to unclog arteries.




Nanoburrs are tiny nanoparticle burrs that are coated with protein. The nanoburrs are delivered to the damaged artery wall by intravenous injection.

Once inside the artery, they are attached to it by the burr-like structures on the nanoparticle. And, once attached, medicines within the nanoburrs are slowly release.

An example of a medicine released by the nanoburr is paclitaxel, which prevents the growth of scar tissue (by inhibiting cell growth) that frequently clogs arteries.

Paclitaxel is often sold under the names of TAXOL and Abraxane (a newer version in which paclitaxel is combined with albumin).

According to the MIT News article “New ‘nanoburrs’ could help fight heart disease,” Dr. Langer states, “This is a very exciting example of nanotechnology and cell targeting in action that I hope will have broad ramifications.”

These nanoburrs are considered to be among the first nanoparticles to directly target damaged vascular tissues.

Page three concludes with excerpts from the MIT News article relating to nanoburrs.




The MIT News article states, “The nanoburrs are targeted to a structure known as the basement membrane, which lines the arterial walls but is only exposed when those walls are damaged.”

“To build their nanoparticles, the team screened a library of short peptide sequences to find one that binds most effectively to molecules on the surface of the basement membrane. They used the most successful, a seven-amino-acid sequence called C11, to coat the outer layer of their nanoparticles.”

And, “The inner core of the 60-nanometer-diameter particles carries the drug, which is bound to a polymer chain called PLA. A middle layer of soybean lecithin, a fatty material, lies between the core and the outer shell, which consists of a polymer called PEG that protects the particles as they travel through the bloodstream.”

“The drug can only be released when it detaches from the PLA polymer chain, which occurs gradually by a reaction called ester hydrolysis.”

“The longer the polymer chain, the longer this process takes, so the researchers can control the timing of the drug’s release by altering the chain length. So far, they have achieved drug release over 12 days, in tests in cultured cells.”


If approved for use in cardiovascular procedures in the United States, the nanoburrs could be used to replace (or used in conjunction with) vascular stents, which are physically used to keep arteries open.

The authors concluded in the abstract to their paper: “This nanoparticle technology may potentially be used toward the treatment of injured vasculature, a clinical problem of primary importance."

For additional information on nanoburrs and their use with clogged arteries, please read the 1.22.2010 DOTMed News article "Nanoburrs Stick to Injured Arteries."

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