Melbourne scientists investigating whether nanotechnology is a better way to treat heart attacks and strokes have developed a nano-capsule that homes in on a blood clot, then breaks it down.
The research by Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and Melbourne University has been published in the journal Advanced Materials.
Baker IDI’s Christoph Hagemeyer said paramedics could eventually administer the nano-capsule intravenously in emergency situations.
“This can be given in the ambulance straight away so you really save a lot of time and restore the blood flow to the critical organs much faster than currently possible,” he said.
About 55,000 Australians experience heart attack or stroke every year, however half of them cannot use the current treatments in place.
“[It’s] especially critical for stroke because the drugs have a lot of side-effects at the moment,” Dr Hagemeyer said.
“So that’s the reason why only probably 3 to 5 per cent get this treatment at the moment for stroke patients.
“The antibody is targeted against platelets, which are highly abundant cells in the blood and they form thrombosis [a clot] and for that, [the] antibody we’re using is specially designed to fly to these blood platelets so it really seeks out the clot.”
Dr Hagemeyer explained how the nano-capsule was released.
“The drug is an approved drug which we encapsulate in the nano-capsule and the nano-capsule, you have to imagine, is like an onion with different layers,” he said.
“And the layers are connected by poly 2-oxazoline … which is sensitive to thrombin and thrombin is a very prothrombotic substance in the blood which causes clotting, so we’re hijacking actually the clotting system to enable the release of the drug.
“So if thrombin around the different layers of the nano-capsules are digested and removed … the drug inside can be released.”
He said the process of releasing the capsule is very fast.
“We did tests, and it depends on the thrombin concentration, but we see degradations within minutes — so very fast,” he said.
Dr Hagemeyer said the method paramedics currently administer has side-effects.
“They administer drugs which is also very fast-acting, but because it’s free in the blood stream everywhere it causes side-effects like bleeding because it’s also attacking older clots,” he said.
“So, the trick we have is that it’s only acting when you have an acute event and when the clot is growing exponentially and blocking the vessel, that’s when our drug is released. In other areas it’s not released.”
Dr Hagemeyer has been working on the latest innovation for more than five years, but he said it would probably take another five years to bring the nanotechnology to patients.