Here’s some great news: Researchers have made significant progress on a new treatment for halting heart disease.  Even better is that it has potential to reverse damage to arteries that has already occurred. These exciting developments, which could affect tens of millions of people, are findings of a new study recently made by the Stanford School of Medicine. 

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death. Estimates of the number of Americans who die from this annually range between 650,000 – 800,000 - that’s almost 1 in every 3 deaths.  About 160,000 of these occur in people under age 65. 

Globally, about 18 million lives are lost to heart disease each year.  Another even more sobering statistic, according to Stanford, is that the frequency of this disease in people over 65 is 100% - only the severity varies.  Some experts believe it can begin in childhood.  Fortunately, now there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it comes from a most surprising source.

Atherosclerosis, a common form of arteriosclerosis, is a build-up of fat, calcium, cholesterol, and other substances in arteries.  This is commonly called plaque, and in some cases it can lead to blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, or other serious health problems.  

This condition is generally treated with blood thinners or other medications. However, these drugs have limited benefits in patients who have a very serious build-up of plaque. 

Although treatments have been improving, they nevertheless still do not cure these problems: the accumulation of diseased cells and inflammation within arteries.  Newer approaches that use antibodies are more efficient.  However, while they remove plaque they also remove healthy tissue, which can lead to complications.

Sending Signals

One of the difficulties of treating this condition is that the plaque signals the body’s immune system not to attack it.  But according to the Stanford study, it is possible to enable white blood cells to recognize plaque as harmful and reduce its build-up - without causing any dangerous side-effects.  This can be accomplished with drugs that are carried by carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are not new; they were discovered back in 1993.  Only recently, however, did the medical community become interested in them.  Essentially, these are single layers of carbon rolled into a tube.

Carbon nanotubes are incredibly small - only 2-3 nanometers in diameter.  To get a better idea of just how tiny this is, a nanometer is just one 100,000th the width of a sheet of paper.  The nanotubes are modified in a solution and then treated with special dyes so they could be monitored and measured.  

White blood cells “absorb” these nanotubes.  When they do, they can recognize and destroy dead cells and cell debris, the materials that make up plaque deposits and clog arteries.  The white blood cells eliminate plaque without damaging healthy cells.

Although this study was carried out on mice, scientists believe its findings could lead to an improved way of treating heart disease in humans and possibly even reverse the harmful effects of plaque build-up. 

Dr. Smith, one of the authors of the study, explained the findings this way.  Once the plaque’s “don’t-attack-me” mechanism is shut off, the white blood cells “cause the plaque to eat themselves from the inside out, thus reducing their size and stabilizing their growth... These inflammatory cells are precursors of atherosclerosis that are part of the cause of heart attacks…”

Dr. Smith continues: “Because the white blood cells that take in the nanotubes go to artery plaque rather than to healthy tissues, we were able to constrain the uptake into just the cells we want, so the nanotherapy avoided side-effects such as organ damage…. The idea is that eventually a solution containing these nanoparticles will be IV injected into a patient and will then flow through his or her blood stream.”

The researchers believe the ability to target problem cells with such precision is an important development not only in the battle against cardio vascular disease but as a way of fighting cancerous cells as well.

Meanwhile, there are other exciting developments regarding heart health. Michigan State University researchers have created for the first time a miniature human heart model in a lab that has all primary heart cells and working chambers.  These mini hearts will make it possible to study all types of cardiac disorders and heart disease with an unprecedented degree of precision.

And there are still more amazing developments. National Herald India reports that Empagliflozin, a recently developed diabetes drug, can effectively treat and reverse heart failure in both diabetics and non-diabetics.

A clinical trial published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that this medication can improve the heart’s size, shape, and function, leading to an increased capacity to exercise and an improved quality of life.

The researchers found that roughly 80 percent of the patients treated with empagliflozin became healthier, and were able to do a greater number of activities of daily living with a decreased risk of hospitalization.

“We were very surprised at how fast the benefits appeared with empagliflozin,” the authors of this research wrote.  “The patients were already feeling better in the first few weeks of taking it.”  

Our rabbis tell us to pray that we maintain good health; this is hinted to in the first two words in the Torah, “Beraishis bara.Bara suggests brius (health). Let us hope that we never need such critical medical help.  Furthermore, let us hope that those who do need it recover quickly.

YouTube: Diabetes Drug Can Treat and Reverse Heart failure: Study;
MSU scientists Create First Functioning
Mini Human Heart Model

Gerald Harris is a financial and feature writer. Gerald can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.