S&T atherosclerosis researcher awarded patent, says clinical trials ‘a few years away’

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On December 5, 2023

Dr. Hu Yang working in a Missouri S&T laboratory. Photo by Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T.

Dr. Hu Yang working in a Missouri S&T laboratory. Photo by Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T.

A Missouri S&T researcher studying chronic artery disease, or atherosclerosis, was recently awarded a patent for a nano-formulation he says could potentially be used as a treatment for the disease.

One of the next steps in this research will be to conduct clinical trials with humans, but those trials will likely not start for at least the next few years, says Dr. Hu Yang, S&T’s Doshi Endowed Department Chair of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.

“It would be wonderful to start clinical trials in the coming years,” Yang says. “We are doing all we can to accelerate this process and have seen positive results in our preclinical studies.”

Yang has worked on this research since 2009, and he says he is now in the final stages that must be completed prior to pursuing these trials. Yang’s research, which has been funded by an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, involves nanoparticles that have multiple functions in the body.

For patients with chronic artery disease, plaque in the arteries blocks blood flow and can potentially lead to blood clots, which can then cause a heart attack or stroke when they are ruptured. There is not currently a cure for atherosclerosis, but Yang says his nano-formulation of drugs could be the answer.

“Current treatment options focus on slowing this condition but do not effectively remove existing cholesterol from plaque cells,” he says. “My team’s intention is to have our nano-formulation push cholesterol and lipids through the arteries without having significant buildup, while also reducing the cholesterol already in the body’s plaque cells.”

Yang says his experiments using a murine model have been positive, and his team is now considering which type of imaging test will work best to assess their progress on a larger level. PET scans and MRI machines are two options his team is studying, he says.

“Everything is moving in the right direction,” he says. “Making the shift to human trials will be a huge undertaking and require large amounts of funding and support, but we are excited to conduct this work.”

Yang says additional support from the NIH or a pharmaceutical company could also potentially accelerate the speed of his work, and he is seeking this type of partnership along with other funding sources.

“I have been contacted by a number of individuals who are directly affected by this condition, and I even received an anonymous donation to support the research,” he says. “People understand why it is important to have this type of nano-formulation available for patients.”

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University, where Yang previously served as a professor, are assisting him on this project.

To learn more about Missouri S&T’s chemical and biochemical engineering department, visit chemeng.mst.edu.

About Missouri S&T

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students located in Rolla, Missouri. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System, Missouri S&T offers over 100 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top public universities for salary impact, according to the Wall Street Journal. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.

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