January 18, 2014
I Heart Microparticles
Several months ago, my uncle had a heart attack. Luckily, he received prompt and skillful care and is doing much better now, but at the time it came as something of a wake up call for much of my family. Many of us are at risk, and I am no exception. It is not as though I lead the most active of lifestyles nor am I the healthiest of eaters. Still, although healthy living on top of a good diet and exercise is still seen as the best preventative measure for heart attacks, it is good to know that there are new treatments out there that can help us even when all else fails. One of these new treatments is the use of microparticles, which in preliminary tests have had incredible results.
Newly developed micro-particles made of poly (lactic-co-glycolic) acid, which is a biocompatible and biodegradable substance that is already approved by the FDA – commonly used in sutures – when injected into the blood stream within 24 hours of a heart attack has sown to reduce the expected inflammatory damage by half according to both Northwestern Medicine and the University of Sydney, Australia. These micro-particles are incredibly small, only 500 nanometers, which is roughly 1/200th the size of a single strand of hair. When these micro-particles were injected, the size of the heart lesion was reduced by 50 percent and it also allowed the heart to pump more blood. The micro-particles work by latching on to the damaged cells, called inflammatory monocytes, thanks to the negative charge they have on their surface – as the inflammatory monocytes are a positively charged receptor – and divert them to the spleen rather than the heart by sending a signal to the body that tells it that the cell is ready for disposal, which causes the inflammatory cells to die. As much of the damage to the heart after a heart attack is caused by these inflammatory cells, this new treatment is having groundbreaking results. According to Daniel Getts, a scholar in microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, “This is the first therapy that specifically targets a key driver of the damage that occurs after a heart attack. There is no other therapy on the horizon that can do this. It has the potential to transform the way heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases are treated.” Thus far, the results have been very encouraging and the scientists behind the development of these micro-particles have partnered with a start-up biotechnology company in order to produce a refined version of the micro-particles for what they hope will be a clinical trial within the next two years and there are already plans in the works to submit a new drug application to the FDA sometime soon.
New treatment methods such as this one are nigh miraculous. Sure, this still does not beat healthy living, diet, and exercise, but it is a wonderful treatment to have in reserve just in case. Personally, while I do not believe that we will ever be completely free of disease and illness, it is nice to know that there will always be new technologies available to help protect us against them.
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