Northwestern: Northwestern Medicine scientists have demonstrated an enhanced approach to using nanomaterials to target inflammatory cells involved in atherosclerosis. The findings, published in the journal ACS Nano, could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart disease. Edward Thorp, PhD, assistant professor of Pathology, was a co-author of the paper. The study was led by Evan Scott, PhD, assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and a member of the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology.
Atherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries due to a buildup of
plaque, is a chronic inflammatory condition with limited therapies. As
such, there’s been much interest in developing novel nanomaterials that
might directly target key immune cells associated with atherosclerosis,
and serve as platforms for diagnostic imaging and more precise delivery
In the current study, a team of scientists demonstrated for the first
time that tweaking the nanostructure morphology — aspects of the
material’s form, shape and size — while maintaining the same surface
chemistry led to enhanced targeting of dendritic cells, a cell
population that plays a role in atherosclerosis, as well as a variety of
Specifically, under the investigators’ mouse model, polymersomes — a
type of artificial vesicle in a sphere shape — were found to be
significantly more efficient at targeting dendritic cells in
atherosclerotic lesions, compared to two other structures studied.
The findings have important indications for the design of future
nanomaterials, underscoring the idea that morphology can be modified to
improve targeting in drug delivery.
Scott is also a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health
Director’s New Innovator Award grant 1DP2HL132390-01, American Heart
Association grant 14SDG20160041, Chemistry of Life Processes Institute
Postdoctoral Fellows Program, the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K.
Querrey Center for Regenerative Nanomedicine Catalyst Award, National
Institutes of Health Predoctoral Biotechnology Training Grant