Plaque-fighting nanoparticles could help prevent heart attacks and strokes

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Scientists have created a new type of nanoparticle capable of not only imaging harmful plague inside arteries using MRI but simultaneously treating it as well. The findings were announced at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

The nanoparticle is designed to mimic the functions of the body’s own high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” HDL cholesterol, which extracts low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol, from arterial plaques. A hydrophobic core of iron oxide makes the nanoparticle light up on MRI scans, revealing the exact location of plaque buildup.

Researchers are currently studying how well the particles locate and treat plaques in animals, with clinical trials expected to begin within two years.