The future of micro-particle heart protection

By | Science & Technology
Image courtesy of wikicommons/Bryan Brandenburg

The coronary artery is the hearts lifeline, fuelling the cardiac muscle, allowing it beat and pump blood to the body and itself. When this artery becomes obstructed, the perpetually active cardiac muscle may become oxygen deprived quickly, and after such an event the body reacts causing inflammation of the heart muscle to occur. This increase in size is known as pericarditis and is the body’s method of accessing and attending to the heart tissue.

A method of bypassing this increase in size might be a great modern achievement in medicine. Research co-authored by Professor King from the University of Sydney, and Dr Getts and Professor Miller from Northwestern University seem to have the answers. Albeit an unconventional method it is effective all the same.

Today survival rates for all aspects of health seems to have increased; medical science has advanced to the point where the body’s limitations are reached. Whilst cardiac treatment might bypass obstructed arteries and restart seized muscles the body still endeavours to heal sometimes, and in some cases without success.

It may seem the system might only go so far, which is where medical science comes in to play. What is being described as a simple detour, essentially uses plastic to tweak the body, modifying the healing process. Yet this simple, affordable use of plastic may have a innovative impact across the entire spectrum of human health. Primarily it is the heart which is the main focus of this treatment.

This new technique centres upon micro-particles which are injected into a patient up to 24 hours after a myocardial infarction. Doing so, decreases the unnecessary long term impairment caused by increase in size, reducing heart lesions by fifty percent. The micro-particles also insured improved blood flow, increasing the rate of recovery. They are constructed from an already well used biodegradable compound known as PLGA (poly lactic-co-glycolic acid), one of the most common uses for this substance is within surgical sutures which dissolve after an desired amount of time. As such this substance is well understood and already approved for medical use as well as in certain types of food.

The micro-particle in question is a fraction of the width of a hair however has a powerful effect on the inflammatory system. These particles may be highly charged and are currently used to label cells in laboratory imaging, yet their new cardiac purpose was actually a product of chance. Charged micro-particles were attractive to inflammatory monocytes the main propagator of cardiac increase in size. This allows the particles to specifically target the key driving factors which cause increase in size; by triggering a natural pathway it causes the body get rid of its inflammatory cells, this in turn protects the heart whilst the cardiac tissue heals. Professor King, one of the co-authors, goes on to state that “we are able to prevent major tissue impairment simply because the inflammatory cells pick up micro-particles in the blood stream and are then diverted down a natural cell disposal pathway into the spleen.” A novel method, which may use an existing pathway to increase the chance of survival and overall rate of recovery.

It has been mentioned such a treatment might be applied to a diverse variety of medical conditions which might cause inflammation challenges. From meningitis to transplant recovery, wherever excessive increase in size is a challenge, it may now be changed. “The potential for this approach is quite extraordinary,” Professor King said and whilst only at animal trial level, this treatment might reach clinical trials within two years. The simplicity of the micro-particle’s design may mean this technique might be in mainstream use soon.

To what degree might this treatment effect heart patient’s survival in the long term, how many years might this protective heart buffer add in the long term?

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