Recent research has indicated that designing nanomedicine to combat diseases is an attractive proposition, primarily for treating cancer, but very little is known in the context of atherosclerotic disease.
Scientists have engineered a microchip coated with blood vessel cells to learn more about the conditions under which nanoparticles accumulate in the plaque-filled arteries of patients with atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of myocardial infarction and stroke.
In the research, microchips were coated with a thin layer of endothelial cells, which make up the interior surface of blood vessels. In healthy blood vessels, endothelial cells act as a barrier to keep foreign objects out of the bloodstream. But at sites prone to atherosclerosis, the endothelial barrier breaks down, allowing things to move in and out of arteries that shouldn't.
In a new study, nanoparticles were able to cross the endothelial cell layer on the microchip under conditions that mimic the permeable layer in atherosclerosis. The results on the microfluidic device correlated well with nanoparticle accumulation in the arteries of an animal model with atherosclerosis, demonstrating the device's capability to help screen nanoparticles and optimize their design.
"It's a simple model — a microchip, not cell culture dish — which means that a simple endothelialized microchip with microelectrodes can show some yet important prediction of what's happening in a large animal model," said YongTae (Tony) Kim, an assistant professor in bioengineering in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The research was published in January online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
. This work represents a multidisciplinary effort of researchers that are collaborating within the Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The team includes researchers at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan, and the Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.
Kim began the work as his post-doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the lab of Robert Langer.
"This is a wonderful example of developing a novel nanotechnology approach to address an important medical problem," said Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is renowned for his work in tissue engineering and drug delivery.