St. Louis, July 27, 2006 -- In laboratory tests, one very low dose of a drug was enough to show an effect on notoriously tenacious artery-clogging plaques. What kind of drug is that potent?
It's not so much the drug itself as how it was delivered. Fumagillin -- a drug that can inhibit the growth of new blood vessels that feed atherosclerotic plaques -- was sent directly to the base of plaques by microscopically small spheres called nanoparticles developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
"Previously we reported that we can visualize plaques using our nanoparticle technology, but this is the first time we've demonstrated that the nanoparticles can also deliver a drug to a disease site in a living organism," says Patrick Winter, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine. "After a single dose in laboratory rabbits, fumagillin nanoparticles markedly reduced the growth of new blood vessels that feed plaques."
The researchers report their findings in the September issue of the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, and the article is now available on line.
An atherosclerosis plaque results when a buildup of cholesterol, inflammatory cells and fibrous tissue forms inside an artery. If a plaque ruptures, it can block blood flow to the heart or brain, causing heart attack or stroke.
While growing, plaques require an influx of nutrients, fats and cells, so they develop their own blood supply -- minute blood vessels that grow within the wall of arteries and penetrate the plaque. Many believe that cutting off this blood supply could stabilize or reduce plaques. In previous studies, fumagillin has been shown to be an effective agent for stopping the process that creates new blood vessels.
Riding on the nanoparticles, fumagillin is carried to the site of new blood vessel formation and stays there thanks to a fellow nanoparticle passenger -- a component that fastens the nanoparticle
Contact: Gwen Ericson
Washington University School of Medicine