Researchers recently created a new technology that combines nanogold and peptides to restore heart function as well as electrical conductivity.
Could a spritz of super-tiny gold and peptide particles on a damaged heart provide on-the-spot, minimally invasive repair?
State-of-the-art studies carried out by the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine Associate Professors Dr. Emilio Alarcon and Dr. Erik Suuronen reveal that a spray-on technology employing customized nanoparticles of one of the world’s most precious metals provides considerable therapeutic potential and can ultimately help save many lives.
Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of death globally, claiming the lives of approximately 18 million people every year.
Dr. Alarcon and his colleagues suggest that this approach could one day be used in conjunction with coronary artery bypass surgeries, the most common type of heart surgery. The study was published online in ACS Nano, a peer-reviewed journal that featured the research on its supplementary cover.
The therapy assessed by the scientists — which was sprayed on the hearts of laboratory mice — employed very low concentrations of peptide-modified particles of gold produced in the lab. The material can be evenly painted on the surface of a heart in a few seconds using the nozzle of a miniaturized spraying apparatus.
Gold nanoparticles display unusual properties and are highly chemically reactive. Researchers have been using gold nanoparticles — which are so small that they are undetectable to the naked eye — in such a wide range of technologies for years that it has become an area of intense research.
In the current study, the laboratory mice’s hearts were sprayed with custom-made nanogold modified with peptides — a short chain of amino acids. The spray-on therapy not only improved cardiac function and heart electrical conductivity, but there was no off-target organ infiltration by the tiny gold particles, according to the study.
That’s the beauty of this approach. You spray, then you wait a couple of weeks, and the animals are doing just fine compared to the controls.
Dr. Emilio Alarcon, Director, Bio-nanomaterials Chemistry and Engineering Laboratory, University of Ottawa Heart Institute
Not only does the data suggest that the spray-on nanotherapeutic’s medicinal action is remarkably efficient, but its application is far more straightforward than other regenerative approaches for treating an infarcted heart, according to Dr. Alarcon.
The team had a hard time believing the improved cardiac function and electrical signal propagation in the hearts of the tested mice. According to Dr. Alarcon, who is a member of the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology and the Director of the Bio-nanomaterials Chemistry and Engineering Laboratory at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, repeated experiments yielded the same positive results.
The team is now working to acclimatize this technology to minimally invasive procedures that will speed up testing in large animal models like rabbits and pigs, to validate the exciting findings in mice.
Dr. Alarcon praised uOttawa’s and the Heart Institute’s research cultures, emphasizing that the freedom to explore is paramount.
When you have an environment where you are allowed to make mistakes and criticize, that really drives discoveries.
Dr Emilio Alarcon, Director, Bio-nanomaterials Chemistry and Engineering Laboratory, University of Ottawa Heart Institute
Researchers from the University of Ottawa and the University of Talca in Chile are part of the research team. The research was supported in part by the Canadian government’s New Frontiers in Research Fund, which was formed in 2018 to support transformative high-risk/high-reward research led by Canadian researchers in collaboration with local and international partners.
Muñoz, M., et al. (2022) Nanoengineered Sprayable Therapy for Treating Myocardial Infarction. ACS Nano. doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c08890.