Scientists have carried out trials using microscopic drones that could be used to seek and repair damaged arteries, preventing heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers have completed the first successful tests of nanoparticles – which are targeted to go where they are needed – in mice, and hope to soon to conduct the first patient trials.
The nanoparticles are designed to latch on to hard plaques in the arteries, made from fat cholesterol and calcium, which cause heart disease.
Once they reach their target, the “drones” release a drug derived from a natural protein that repairs inflammation damage in the body.
Each of the tiny particles, made from a plastic-like material, is 1,000 times smaller than the tip of a human hair.
Scientists said the use of nanotechnology could herald an “exciting” breakthrough for patients with heart disease, and could also assist with other areas of medicine.
In the tests, atherosclerosis [clogged arteries] in laboratory mice was significantly repaired after five weeks of treatment and plaques were stabilised, making it less likely for fragments to break off and clog blood vessels.
Lead researcher Dr Omid Farokhzad, director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, US, said: “This is the first example of a targeted nanoparticle technology that reduces atherosclerosis in an animal model.”