New research demonstrates that injecting synthetically designed nanofibers in mice helps to break up the arterial plaque that is a hallmark of atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds inside the arteries, stiffening and eventually clogging them.
Plaque is a waxy substance that’s made of cholesterol, fat, fragments of cellular waste, calcium, and fibrin, an insoluble protein that helps the blood to clot.
As plaque gradually builds up inside the arteries, it causes the vessels to lose their elasticity, which makes them less efficient at pumping blood.
It also makes the walls inside the arteries thicker, which limits the flow of oxygen to the cells. Over time, plaque can lead to blood clots, or parts of it can detach and block the arteries.
For these reasons, atherosclerosis may lead to coronary heart disease, angina, peripheral artery disease, or chronic kidney disease, among other conditions.
Current therapies for atherosclerosis include the use of statins, which help to regulate cholesterol levels. However, these drugs only help to keep the condition in check; they don’t reverse it.
New research, however, shows that one day, reversing this condition could be possible. Dr. Neel A. Mansukhani — an integrated vascular surgery fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL — led a study in which synthetically created nanofibers were used in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.
The injection successfully targeted the buildup of cholesterol and led to the breaking up of plaque. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s conference Vascular Discovery: From Genes to Medicine Scientific Sessions 2018, held in San Francisco, CA.