A combination of nanotechnology and adult stem cells has been shown to destroy arterial plaque atherosclerosis in the hearts of pigs. Animals that received stem cells also showed signs of new blood vessel growth and restoration of artery function, according to the study reported at the American Heart Association's Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2010 Scientific Sessions.

The study was conducted at the Department of Internal Medicine and Research Center of Regenerative Medicine, Ural State Medical Academy in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Nanoparticles were infused into the heart of pigs, along with adult stem cells, then heated by laser light until they burned away arterial plaque. The volume of plaque shrunk an average of 28.9 percent immediately after treatment across the three treatment groups, and six months later it had declined 56.8 percent on average. In the control group, plaque volume increased an average of 4.3 percent.

"Biophotonics (light therapy), plasmonics (plasma therapy), stem cell therapy and nanotechnology might someday offer a completely novel treatment to reduce artery plaque build-up," said lead author and research manager Alexandr Kharlamov. "Nanoburning in combination with stem cell treatment promises demolition of plaque and functional restoration of the vessel wall."

This new approach may one day replace angioplasty, a common treatment for atherosclerosis, in which a balloon-tipped catheter is threaded into a blocked artery and the balloon is inflated to restore blood flow. The balloon squeezes plaque against the artery wall, but does not eliminate it.