Blood clot breakthrough could save stroke victims

Melbourne researchers are investigating a new way to treat heart attack and stroke that takes the clot-busting treatment right to the source.

The hope is to develop a more effective emergency treatment that can be administered by paramedics and provide better outcomes, particularly for stroke victims.

The research is at a very early stage but is promising, says Professor Christoph Hagemeyer at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.

The new treatment uses nanotechnology to deliver medication right to the source. The researchers have developed a nano-capsule that hones in on a blood clot, then breaks it down.

The capsule is so small, it can be administered intravenously.

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“This can be given in the ambulance straight away so you really save a lot of time and restore the blood flow to the critical organs much faster than currently possible,” saidDr Hagemeyer.

The new treatment is preferable to existing treatments.

“[It’s] especially critical for stroke because the drugs have a lot of side-effects at the moment,” Dr Hagemeyer told the ABC.

About 55,000 Australians experience heart attack or stroke every year, however half of them cannot use the current treatments in place.

The new nano-capsule contains an antibody that targets platelets, which are what causes blood clots.

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“The antibody we’re using is specially designed to fly to these blood platelets so it really seeks out the clot,” Dr Hagemeyer explains.

The nano-capsule quickly breaks down once it has located the clot and delivers the medication to break it down.

Dr Hagemeyer said the method paramedics currently administer has side-effects.

“They administer drugs which is also very fast-acting, but because it’s free in the blood stream everywhere it causes side-effects like bleeding because it’s also attacking older clots,” he said.

“So, the trick we have is that it’s only acting when you have an acute event and when the clot is growing exponentially and blocking the vessel, that’s when our drug is released. In other areas it’s not released.”

Dr Hagemeyer has been working on this incredible new treatment for more than five years, but it will be another five before it can be brought to patients.

Have you or someone you loved experienced a stroke or heart attack? Did you suffer any side effects from the medication? How do you feel about nanotechnology?