Friday, July 13, 2012

Video shows how nanoparticles destroy a blood clot

In order for bodily tissues to survive, a steady supply of blood, providing nutrients and oxygen, is required. When blood flow is blocked, the surrounding tissue dies. When an important blood vessel gets blocked, for example one that supplies the heart or brain, then the patient is in big trouble. In such cases of blockage, which can be induced by clotting, we call it a heart attack or stroke, respectively. This often leads to death and therefore needs to be treated rapidly. New, modern-day treatments attempt to clear blockages by including the use of nanoparticles, which are artificially constructed molecules with a medicinal effect. A video made by Harvard University shows how nanoparticles slowly remove a clot from a blood vessel.

A mouse artery was artificially blocked by a clot induced by the Harvard scientists, after which they supplied their therapy in order to clear the vessel again. To achieve this, they loaded nanoparticles with a drug commonly used to treat clots, and injected it into the artery. The video shows what happens next: small particles move into the blockage, represented by a bright bulb, and slowly make it smaller. It shows that, over time, the clot disappears, which means the blood can freely flow through the artery again.

New treatment
Using nanoparticles should reduce the amount of drug needed to clear blockage in vessels, according to the scientists. Their experiment may therefore lead to new treatments for strokes and heart attacks. Although the video shows a clot can be cleared quite fast, in reality it takes around five minutes. That may still be enough to save some important tissue, although the time it takes to get the patient to the hospital, and for the clinicians to find out where the blockage is located, probably pose limiting factors.

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