Medicine-covered nanoparticles could help stroke victims

Doctors have been working for years on using tiny nanoparticles covered in clot busting drugs to clear blocked vessels in stroke victims. The only problem is that when a vessel is completely blocked, a lack of blood flow in the affected area is a problem. Strokes can be treated by inserting a stent into the clot, then opening it to pull the clot out but it can cause damage to the artery or dislodge pieces of the clot that get stuck elsewhere. Scientists at Harvard and UMass have struck on a method for using a stent to burrow a small hole through the clot, then releasing the nanoparticles into it. The increased pressure in the channel activates the drugs, which attach to the clot, break it up and continue to work on busting it up even as parts break off -- check after the break for a quick video showing the process in action.

A few years ago scientists described using magnets and magnetically-charged particles to guide the drugs to the right spot, but this new method works with stents that are already commonly used. Like Rice University's work combining snake venom with nanomaterials to stop bleeding in patients on powerful blood thinners, the hope is that blending existing procedures with new technology makes a combination that's more effective and safer to use.

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