Drug-infused nanoparticles are like Drano for your bloodstream

When you get a clog in the plumbing in your house, it's often annoying. When you get a clog in the plumbing in your body, it's often fatal. Blood clots can cut off circulation to your brain, causing serious damage, but a new type of nanoparticle might be able to act like Drano, dissolving clots before anything bad happens.

Blood clots happen all the time. Unless you're reading this while jogging, you're almost certainly getting them right now. Generally, our bodies are good at dissolving them just as fast without any supervision, but sometimes injuries upset the balance and the clots start to become a problem. And even a little tiny clot, if it makes it to your brain, can be a very bad thing. There are drugs that help to slow down the formation of clots (like blood thinners), but they come with their own issues, like the fact that your blood is, you know, thin, and won't clot as well when you need it to.

Biomedical engineers at Harvard have come up with a way to proactively clean out your circulatory system, detecting tough clogs and busting them up using nanoparticles infused with drugs. The nanoparticles are designed to act kind of like platelets (the cell fragments in your blood that form clots in the first place), sticking together in clumps and relying on blood flow to suck them into blood vessels with clots in them. Once they find a clot, the nanoparticles release a drug called a tissue plasminogen activator that handily dissolves it.

Since the nanoparticles are passively targeted and only act on clots, you don't have to worry about giving a patient too much or too little: the medication finds clots everywhere and dissolves them all by itself, and whatever isn't used will just biodegrade without any harmful side effects. This stuff hasn't been tried on humans, but it works really well in mice, so it may be that at some point in the not-too-distant future (we hope), your plumber will offer to maintain your veins as well as your drains.

Via Science

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