Researchers at Oregon State University developed a nanoparticle system that can aid with the removal of endometrial lesions in a minimally invasive fashion. In endometriosis, endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, causing pain and affecting fertility. Surgery to remove these lesions is often unsuccessful and repeat surgeries are often required. The research team’s nanoparticle technology can aid in minimally invasively destroying such lesions.
The iron oxide nanoparticles can be delivered intravenously and are targeted to accumulate in endometrial lesions, and also handily act as an MRI contrast agent. By applying an alternating magnetic field externally, clinicians can then induce the particles to produce localized heating, destroying the endometrial lesions.
Endometriosis involves endometrial tissue, which usually exclusively lines the uterus, growing in other areas of the body. Typically, this occurs in the pelvic cavity and can affect the ovaries and fallopian tubes. The condition can be painful and can reduce fertility. Removing these lesions surgically is not always successful as they frequently grow back, so finding a less invasive way to target them would be beneficial.
“Endometriosis is a non-malignant condition, but the lesions sometimes perforate organs, resulting in a life-threatening situation,” said Olena Taratula, one of the developers of the new technology. “Therapies for pain result in infertility, and patients wishing to improve fertility often seek surgical removal of the lesions. And unfortunately, not only is the recurrence rate high; complications associated with surgery add to the overall risk.”
Nanoparticles that heat up under the influence of magnetic fields are not new, and have been trialed for cancer therapy. However, most spherical nanoparticles do not heat up enough to destroy endometrial lesions, and this low heating efficiency means that the nanoparticles would need to be directly injected into the lesions, which isn’t practical. To address this, the researchers tweaked the design of the particles and hit upon a hexagonal design that increases the heating efficiency by up to six-fold, meaning that systemic delivery is sufficient.
Another key feature of the nanoparticles is their ability to target and accumulate in endometrial lesions when delivered systemically. This is achieved by a targeting peptide that binds to vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2, which is present at high levels in endometrial tissue.
“Endometriosis is a debilitating, systemic disease, and the need for an efficient, non-surgical method of removing the lesions is urgent,” added Taratula. “We invented targeted nanoparticles with extraordinary heating capabilities that enable the use of magnetic hyperthermia for the safe and efficient elimination of endometriosis lesions.”