Daniel Getts, a visiting scholar in microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues at the University of Sydney in Australia, said when biodegradable microparticles were injected after a heart attack, the size of the heart lesion was reduced by 50 percent and the heart could pump significantly more blood.
"This is the first therapy that specifically targets a key driver of the damage that occurs after a heart attack," Getts said in a statement. "There is no other therapy on the horizon that can do this. It has the potential to transform the way heart attacks and cardiovascular disease are treated."
The microparticles work by binding to the damaging cells -- inflammatory monocytes -- and diverting them to a fatal detour -- to the spleen to die.
The particles are made of poly lactic-co-glycolic acid, a biocompatible and biodegradable substance already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in re-absorbable sutures. A microparticle is 500 nanometers, which is 1/200th size of a hair, Getts explained.
The scientists' study showed the microparticles reduced damage and repaired tissue in many other inflammatory diseases -- West Nile virus, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and peritonitis -- the thin tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs.
The findings were so encouraging, the scientists partnered with a start-up biotechnology company, Cour Pharmaceutical Development Co., to produce a refined version of the microparticles in anticipation of what they hope will be a clinical trial in heart attack within two years, Getts said. The company plans to submit an investigational new drug application to the FDA, the researchers said.
The findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.