Press release

Pioneering approach for a non-invasive nanopharmaceutical treatment of heart failure


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A new study, lead by the group of Daniele Catalucci from the Cnr-Irgb (Milan, Italy) and part of the EU-funded project CUPIDO, demonstrated that nanoparticle-based therapeutic peptides can effectively be delivered to the diseased heart via inhalation. Their results, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, represent the first proof-of-concept for an unconventional and pioneering approach with inhalable nanoparticles to pharmacologically treat cardiac conditions.

As Michele Miragoli, first author of the paper, explains: “Nanomedicine, the application of nanotechnology to the health sector, represents a promising approach for modern health care. Indeed, several nanopharmaceuticals have been approved by the FDA since the late 90s’ and lead to remarkable advantages especially in the cancer field. On the contrary, few attempts have been made to apply nanomedicine to cardiovascular disease even if it represents the leading cause of death worldwide”. Among the treatments for cardiovascular disease, there is an increasing interest in peptide therapeutics due to their high selectivity and efficacy. Currently, it is not possible to administer peptides via non-invasive procedures but only through needle-based injection. This administration is often associated with patient discomfort and mal-compliance, making it problematic for chronic treatment. The idea for an unconventional administration route to target the heart came from recent discoveries about atmospheric pollution: “It is now well-known that combustion-derived nanoparticles in the atmosphere can reach the heart. If a toxic nanoparticle can translocate from the lungs to the heart, why do not exploit the same route to deliver a therapeutic instead?” explains Daniele Catalucci, the corresponding author and project coordinator of CUPIDO. This innovative approach, supported by the EU-funding for the CUPIDO project, is based on a previous work by the same team on small biocompatible and biodegradable calcium phosphate nanoparticles that can be incorporated by the cardiac cells where are able to release the carried drug. In this new study, the team goes a step further and demonstrate the efficacy of these nanoparticles to rapidly translocate from the pulmonary tree to the blood system and reach the heart where their cargo, the therapeutic peptide, is finally released. As result, the animal models treated by inhalation of the nanoparticle-based therapeutic peptide showed an improved myocardial contraction and a restored cardiac function.  The authors caution that the mechanistic events by which the nanoparticles interact with the pulmonary barrier are still unknown and further studies are necessary to investigate the safety of the new delivery approach. The encouraging results open up new avenues of investigation and potential uses of nanomaterials for the treatment of cardiovascular disease involving therapeutic peptides and inhalation, which represents a patient-friendly administration route free of physical or emotional burdens.

Who: Istituto di ricerca genetica e biomedica (Irgb) del Cnr di Milano, coordinatore del progetto ‘Cupido’ (

What: articolo ‘Inhalation of peptide-loaded nanoparticles improves heart failure’, Science Translational Medicine 10, eaan6205 17 gennaio 2018. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan6205

For further information: Daniele Catalucci, Istituto di ricerca genetica e biomedica (Irgb) del Cnr di Milano, tel: 02/82245210, email:

Capo ufficio stampa:
Marco Ferrazzoli
06 4993 3383
skype marco.ferrazzoli1