`Band Aids' For Serious Illness?

PUTTING A BAND-AID ON cancer may not be such a bad idea after all. Writing in the November issue of Nature Medicine, scientists at the Center for Drug Targeting & Analysis at Northeastern University's Bouve College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences in Boston, say they can construct "cellular Band-Aids" from lipids--the body's fat-like building blocks. Doctors could use such patches to help heart attack and stroke victims as well as treat cancer.

Center Director Ban-An Khaw and Associate Director Jagat Narula say the bandages could plug lesions that develop in the heart when the blood supply is interrupted by a heart attack. To save heart muscle tissue, doctors today administer enzymes that dissolve blood clots and restore flow. At best, this approach saves only 50% of the tissue at risk. Membrane patches, which could be injected along with the enzymes and guided to the injured heart cells by modified antibodies, could save as much as 90% of the tissue, says Khaw. That's important because the prognosis for heart attack patients is determined by how much heart muscle is destroyed. Similar patches could be used to protect brain tissue or deliver drugs to kill cancer cells. Biotech startup Molecular Targeting Technology Inc. in Malvern, Pa., plans to help develop the bandages and fund preclinical trials at Northeastern.

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