Barbara, CA – June 13, 2005 – A partnership of 25
scientists from the College of Engineering at UC
Santa Barbara, and The Burnham Institute and The
Scripps Research Institute -- both of La Jolla --
have been awarded $13 million to use nanotechnologies
in the design of new ways to detect, monitor, treat,
and eliminate "vulnerable" plaque, the probable cause
of death from sudden cardiac arrest. The organizations
were selected as a collaborative "Program of Excellence
in Nanotechnology" (PEN) by the National Heart Lung
and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes
of Health (NIH).
UCSB professors participating in the project include
Matthew V. Tirrell, PhD, Dean of the College of Engineering
and professor of chemical engineering; Andrew N.
Cleland, Ph.D., associate professor of physics; Patrick
Daugherty, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical
engineering; Samir Mitragotri, Ph.D., assistant professor
of chemical engineering; and Joseph Zasadzinski,
Ph.D., professor of chemical engineering.
As part of the NIH's strategy to accelerate progress
in medical research through innovative technology
and interdisciplinary research, cardiac disease was
chosen as the focus of the National Heart Lung and
Blood Institute's recently-established Program of
Excellence in Nanotechnology.
multi-organizational team will build "delivery
vehicles" that can be used to transport drugs, imaging
agents and nano-devices directly to locations where
there is vulnerable plaque; design molecular nano-stents
to physically stabilize vulnerable plaque and replace
its fibrous cap with an anti-adhesive, anti-inflammatory
surface; devise molecular switches that can sense
and respond to the pathophysiology of atheroma (fatty
deposits on arterial walls); and develop bio-nanoelectromechanical
systems (called BioNEMS) that can sense and respond
to vulnerable plaque, ultimately providing diagnostic
and therapeutic capability.
"The Programs of Excellence in Nanotechnology is
a vitally important research effort that will spur
the development of novel technologies to diagnose
and treat heart, lung, and blood diseases," said
Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., director of the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH. "The
program brings together bioengineers, materials scientists,
biologists, and physicians who will work in interdisciplinary
teams. By taking advantage of the unique properties
of materials at the nanoscale, these teams will devise
creative solutions to medical problems," she said.
The PEN addresses a critical, unmet medical need.
Heart attack remains the number one cause of death
in the United States. Of the estimated 60 million
Americans who have at least one type of cardiac disease,
one million die each year, many without showing signs
much as 60% to 80% of these sudden cardiac deaths
can be attributed to the physical rupture of "vulnerable" plaque,
which is an inflammation embedded in the arterial
wall. Vulnerable plaque, which is considered prone
to rupture, cannot be diagnosed using conventional
visualization methods available to detect so-called
stable plaque, such as angiography or fluoroscopy.
Contact: Barbara Bronson Gray
University of California - Santa Barbara