Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another way to stop plaque out of Star Wars

Nanotechnology, is the miniturisation of technology. This has now reached medicine. You can now miniturise particles, load it with chemical molecules and target it to specific organs and tissues. Of particular interest now is the ability to target arterial wall plaques.

As we all know, a plaque is a collection of cholesterol molecules and it's associated smooth muscle cells and inflammatoy cells. To allow it to grow, these cells must have their own nutrition and oxygen supply, which means that they must have their own capillaries and bllod vessels. We call thegrowth of these new vessels, angiogenesis.

You can imagine that without new vessels, the plaque will not grow. So just as cancers grow through proliferation of new blood vessels, so also atheroma. Well, the Americans have now loaded a drug, call fumagilin, into nanoparticles, and target these nanoparticles at the atheroma. The early study seem to show that this new technique was successful in halting the growth of atheroma. Much of this early work was done in University of Washington.

Fumagilin, is an anti-angiogenesis drug, also helpful in stopping blood vessel formation in cancers. Although the results in rabbits were very encouraging, it will be along time before this work is ready for prime time. However, we can only be hopeful that one day, we can cause plaques to stop growing or regress. Of course we must know that for the moment, we do have statins, which can also halt plaque growth and in some cases, regress them too.

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