NHLBI Working Group
Nanotechnology in Heart, Lung, Blood, and Sleep Medicine

Executive Summary

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute convened a Working Group of investigators on February 28, 2003, in Bethesda, Maryland to review the challenges and opportunities offered by nanotechnology. The Working Group members included engineers, chemists, biologists, and physicians with an interest in applying nanotechnology and nanoscience to problems in heart, lung, blood and sleep medicine. The Working Group participants first reviewed the responses received to a Request for Information. The participants then discussed the scientific opportunities which nanotechnology and nanoscience bring to research and treatment for heart, lung, blood, and sleep diseases, identifying areas of particular promise. Drug delivery and therapeutics, molecular imaging, diagnostics and biosensors, and tissue engineering and biomaterials were thought by Working Group members to be fields where nanotechnology was likely to have an impact in the near future.

The Working Group next addressed perceived needs and barriers hindering the development and application of nanotechnology solutions to disease problems. Since investigators working in heart, lung, blood and sleep research are rarely skilled in the use of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies, while investigators with nanotechnology skills rarely focus on heart, lung, and blood disorders, fostering partnerships between the two communities was recognized as being essential for bringing nanotechnology and nanoscience into the clinical arena. The provision of centralized resources, for example molecular libraries for intra- and extracellular targeting, to provide broad access to resources in a cost-effective way was also discussed.

The Working Group went on to identify specific disease examples where the application of nanotechnology and nanoscience is likely to be of particular benefit in the next five to ten years. Areas recognized as being ready for the application of nanotechnology and nanoscience included; 1) diagnosis and treatment of vulnerable plaque; 2) tissue repair, engineering and remodeling for replacement and repair of blood vessels and heart and lung tissue; 3) diagnosis, treatment and prevention of lung inflammatory diseases; 4) multifunctional devices capable of monitoring the body for the onset of thrombotic or hemorrhagic events, signaling externally and releasing therapeutic drugs; 5) in vivo sensors monitoring patients for sleep apnea.

Finally, the Working Group made recommendations for the Institute on how to support research in this field. The recommendations of the Working Group are to:

  • Create multidisciplinary research teams capable of developing and applying nanotechnology to heart, lung, blood, and sleep research and medicine; disseminating technology, materials, and resources; and training a new generation of investigators.
  • Support individual investigators to conduct research on the application of nanotechnology advances to biological and clinical problems.
  • Foster pilot programs and developmental research to attract new investigators and stimulate creative, high-impact research.
  • Encourage the small business community to become involved in the development of nanotechnology applications.

Working Group Members

Chair: Mauro Ferrari, PhD, Biomedical Engineering Center, Ohio State University

Members:

  • Jean Frechet, PhD, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jeffrey Fredberg, PhD, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Bruce Furie, MD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Pascal Goldschmidt, MD, Department of Medicine, Duke Clinical Research Institute
  • Stephen Lee, PhD, Biomedical Engineering Center, Ohio State University
  • Viola Vogel, PhD, Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington
  • Jennifer West, PhD, Department of Bioengineering, Rice University
  • Samuel Wickline, MD, Cardiovascular Division, Washington University School of Medicine
  • Karen Wooley, PhD, Department of Chemistry, Washington University
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