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Start Up to Develop Nanotech Therapy for Artery Disease

Fluorescent nanoparticles on an arterial wall (Vascular Magnetics Inc.)

Fluorescent nanoparticles on an arterial wall (Vascular Magnetics Inc.)

Vascular Magnetics Inc. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has licensed technology from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to develop treatments for peripheral artery disease (PAD). The company is the hospital’s first commercial spin-off and co-founded by Robert Levy, who conducted the basic research behind the technology.

Peripheral arterial disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs, and limbs. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, fibrous tissue, and other substances in the blood.

This condition hardens and narrows the arteries, and limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to organs and other parts of the body. PAD usually affects the arteries in the legs, but can also affect the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the head, arms, kidneys, and stomach.

Levy and his colleagues investigated a new approach to conventional stent-based therapy, using nanoscale particles — one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter — made from a biodegradable polymer impregnated with iron oxide. Under a low-power, uniform magnetic field, much lower than that produced by existing MRI machines, magnetic forces drive the nanoparticles into metal stents and the surrounding artery. In research on animals, the nanoparticles carry a therapeutic payload of the drug paclitaxel, which is released into the surrounding blood vessel tissue in order to slow arterial re-blockage.

Levy and company CEO Richard Woodward plan to develop a therapy they call vascular magnetic intervention which would serve as a supplement to the current approach of artery stenting. A physician would open and stent the blocked artery and then insert a catheter tipped with an expandable magnetic targeting device. The targeting device would be expanded against the walls of the artery.

In the next stage of the therapy, a magnetic field is applied to the leg, and paclitaxel-containing magnetic nanoparticles would be administered through the catheter, with the targeting device would force the nanoparticles into the wall of the artery. After treatment and removal of the catheter, the wall of the artery would be uniformly coated with the nanoparticles, which slowly biodegrade and release the drug.

The uniform coating provides a higher dose of drug than is achievable with a drug-eluting stent. The technique could also be used to re-treat arteries where the stents have become re-blocked.

Woodward and Levy first joined forces through the QED Proof-of-Concept Program sponsored by the University City Science Center in Philadelphia. The QED Program aims to accelerate research with high commercial potential from academic laboratories into the marketplace. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is a participant in the program.

Read more: Life Sciences Incubator Gets Grant for Proof-of-Concept Fund

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