Looking at news stories about the application of nanotechnology to medical issues it seemed to me that articles about curing heart disease show up much less frequently than articles about curing cancer. That got me thinking, so I started looking for programs that coordinate and fund research for the application of nanotechnology to curing heart disease.
It turns out that the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has funded four Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology Teams to focus on the use of nanotechnology in the diagnosis and treatment of heart and lung diseases. One such Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology (PEN) for the Treatment of Vulnerable Plaque is a partnership of researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara, the Scripps Research Institute, and the Burnham Institute.
Vulnerable plaque refers to the existence of both stable and unstable or vulnerable plaque coating artery walls. This group's focus is on the vulnerable plaque which has the potential of flaking off the artery wall into the bloodstream and causing a heart attack. They have demonstrated that nanoparticles with certain peptides attached will home in on arterial plaque. This team intends to develop nanoparticles that will deliver therapeutic drugs directly to that vulnerable plaque.
The U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has been funding this program at the PEN for the Treatment of Vulnerable Plaque and the other three PEN Teams for the last five years. The NHLBI budget for 2010 states that it is renewing the funding for the PEN program with "an increased emphasis on translation to pre-clinical/clinical studies and commercialization."
We can all look forward to the results of this movement towards commercially available treatments using nanotechnology to drive down the incidence of deaths by heart attacks.
For more information on research into the use of nanotechnology to cure heart disease, go to my Nanotechnology vs. Heart Disease Web page at http://www.understandingnano.com/heart-disease-nanotechnology.html