NHMRC ECF (Peter Doherty - Aust. Biomedical): Bifunctionalised imaging agents for diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases (2012–2017)
This project aims to develop targeted contrast nanoparticles (NPs) that can image cardiovascular diseases (CVD) as well as other inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and simultaneously provide anti-thrombotic activity. Such agents can significantly enhance the accuracy and sensitivity of non-invasive imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The main limitation of commercially available contrast agents for imaging is that they are not targeted to specific cells and do not localize at a specific area for any length of time. Since they are rapidly cleared from the body, a high dose is required. Furthermore, in imaging of CVD, typically only the vessel lumen is imaged, therefore not providing sufficient information on clots or the existence of vulnerable plaques in the arterial wall. Hence there is a strong clinical need for agents that specifically target markers of disease. These NPs will also work as carriers for anti-thrombotic drugs to the disease sites, which can increase drug efficiency and reduce side effects. On successful completion of the project, we will have demonstrated the effectiveness of novel targeted contrast agents to identify unstable plaques, thrombosis and inflammation using imaging techniques such as CT or MRI and to simultaneously provide acute treatment in animal models. A successful outcome will support further studies to develop this technology for clinical diagnosis and treatment of CVD and rheumatoid arthritis.