Researchers are treating the heart directly with enzymes to prevent cellular damage

Medical research covers a broad spectrum with the search for cures and treatments for a growing number of diseases and other conditions being undertaken by scientists and researchers around the globe. Many of the treatments involve some exotic and revolutionary uses for nanomedicine and other high tech treatments.

Researchers announced last week that they were using nano-sized micelles to treat spinal cord injury with impressive restoration of coordinated limb movement in injured lab rats that would leave them paralyzed without treatment. Researchers at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology today announced that they have developed microscopic polymer beads that are capable of delivering an antioxidant enzyme directly to the heart. When mice in lab tests were treated with the beads after a simulated heart attack, the number of dying cells was reduced resulting in improved heart function days later.

The specific enzyme used is called superoxide dismutase (SOD) and it is able to soak up toxic free radicals produced when cells don't receive the blood they need to survive during a heart attack. The researchers have tried previously using SOD injected alone into the body to no avail.

Researcher Michael Davis, PhD said, "Our goal is to have a therapy to blunt the permanent damage of a heart attack and reduce the probability of heart failure later in life. This is a way to get extra amounts of a beneficial antioxidant protein to the cells that need it."

The tiny polymer particles are created with a material called polyketals developed by professor Niren Murthy PhD at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  The polyketals encapsulate the enzyme and are then taken up by the cells within the heart where the enzyme is slowly released. Once empty the microparticles break down in the body into nontoxic components. The same polyketal microparticles have also been used by Davis and his team to encapsulate anti-inflammatory drugs.

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