Case Western‘s Michael Bruckman and colleagues have developed a multifunctional nanoparticle that pinpoints blood vessel plaques caused by atherosclerosis using MRI. The goal is to create a non-invasive method of identifying heart attack and stroke causing plaques vulnerable to rupture, in time for treatment.
Currently doctors can only identify narrowing blood vessels caused by plaque accumulation via incision and the insertion of a catheter inside a blood vessel in the arm, groin or neck. The catheter emits a dye that enables X-rays to show the narrowing.
The researchers found that a nanoparticle built from a rod-shaped virus, commonly found on tobacco, locates and illuminates plaque in arteries more effectively, with a fraction of the dye. The tailored nanoparticles target plaque biomarkers, opening the possibility that particles can be programmed to identify vulnerable plaques from stable. Untargeted dyes alone cannot accomplish this.