Atherosclerosis is at the onset of the cardiovascular diseases that are among the leading causes of death worldwide. Currently, high-risk plaques, also called vulnerable atheromatous plaques, remain often undiagnosed until the occurrence of severe complications, such as stroke or myocardial infarction. Molecular imaging agents that target high-risk atheromatous lesions could greatly improve the diagnosis of atherosclerosis by identifying sites of high disease activity. Moreover, a "theranostic approach" that combines molecular imaging agents (for diagnosis) and therapeutic molecules would be of great value for the local management of atheromatous plaques. The aim of this study was to develop and characterize an innovative theranostic tool for atherosclerosis. We engineered oil-in-water nano-emulsions (NEs) loaded with superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) purposes. Dynamic MRI showed that NE-SPIO nanoparticles decorated with a polyethylene glycol (PEG) layer reduced their liver uptake and extended their half-life. Next, the NE-SPIO-PEG formulation was functionalized with a fully human scFv-Fc antibody (P3) recognizing galectin 3, an atherosclerosis biomarker. The P3-functionalized formulation targeted atheromatous plaques, as demonstrated in an immunohistochemistry analyses of mouse aorta and human artery sections and in an Apoe(-/-) mouse model of atherosclerosis. Moreover, the formulation was loaded with SPIO nanoparticles and/or alpha-tocopherol to be used as a theranostic tool for atherosclerosis imaging (SPIO) and for delivery of drugs that reduce oxidation (here, alpha-tocopherol) in atheromatous plaques. This study paves the way to non-invasive targeted imaging of atherosclerosis and synergistic therapeutic applications.
A Nano-Emulsion Platform Functionalized with a Fully Human scFv-Fc Antibody for Atheroma Targeting: Towards a Theranostic Approach to Atherosclerosis
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