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12/12/2017 HYU News > Academics

Title

A World Without Heart Attacks

A new finding in the treatment of vascular disorders

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http://www.hanyang.ac.kr/surl/8sfR

Contents
Cardiovascular disorder is one of the world’s most prominent causes of death. In Korea, it is only second in line to the most lethal disease, cancer. Naturally, its treatment has been a target of research for a wide scope of experts. To this pursuit, a proud achievement was made by Professor Yoo Hong-ki (Division of Electrical & Bioengineering), who worked with a group of researchers from related fields to devise a new method for treating a major, pervasive threat to human lives.

 
Yoo explained the concepts of his research with great enthusiasm.


Key concept: Theranostics
 
A crucial terminology that effectively grasps the concept of this research is “theranostics”. This is a combination of two words: therapy and diagnostics. It refers to the simultaneous process of diagnosis and therapy. Despite the complicated terminology used in the title of the research, it can be simply explained as a new method of treating vascular disorders. An effective illustration could be made by looking at how this applies to heart attacks--the most representative case of cardiovascular disorders. A heart attack is caused by plaques in the coronary arteries or blood vessels around the heart. When solid substances, such as cholesterol, pile up in the vessels, they trigger inflammations that eventually create a tear. Through this rupture, external substances flow in in the blood vessels, creating blood clots that prevent the supply of air. Consequently, the heart muscles die of suffocation. The aim of this research is to locate dangerous inflammations in the overall blood vessels, and treat them at the same time.
 
An illustration on inflammation of the tissues

The means to visualize and treat inflammation in blood vessels started from the development of a bio-compatible nanocarrier. These nanoscale agents, equipped with inflammation-fighting drugs and fluorescent matter, were created to carry out two tasks: highlight inflamed areas and deliver the drug. The results were promising, as the carriers effectively produced accurate images of vascular inflammation. Furthermore, they could be maneuvered to target specific areas of inflammation, which minimized any undesired systemic effects of the drug. The success of the experiments showed a big progess in humanity’s efforts to visualize and treat vascular diseases. So far, the subjects of the experiments were laboratory mice, but when this could be applied to humans, it could finally mean the overcoming of one of the deadliest disorders on earth.


 
The beginning and end
 
This research first began as a joint study with a cardiologist from a fellow prestigious university, who also happened to be a close acquaintance of Yoo. In the initial stages, the target of the research was the accurate diagnosis of vascular disorders through the use of molecular imaging, which expanded to include treatment as well. The two brilliant minds saw the possibility for targeted treatment in the same manner of the diagnosis. Afterwards, more experts from a number of fields, from nanotechnology, imaging, to biochemistry, became a part of the research team. Yoo explained that good research requires expertise from a wide scope of related fields. Based on the published research, Yoo hopes to continue the study into clinical experiments, ultimately making it compatible to humans. In this pursuit, there are countless obstacles, with even the approval for experimentation on slightly larger animals requiring strict demands.

 
Yoo looks forward to the application of his findings into clinical trials

His personal journey throughout the research
 
The presented research took approximately four years to conduct, and with so many members from different areas of expertise as well as interests, the research was a constant process of discussion and debate, as much as the study itself. Yoo recalled that it was like each person basically speaking different languages. Although this process of synchronizing a common goal was difficult, Yoo answered that it was also fulfilling and exciting, largely due to the expectation of what it could do for humanity in the future. His main priority throughout the research was to help people. What he did wasn’t for the purpose of making people’s lives more entertaining or comfortable; it was rather, about actually keeping them alive.
 
Yoo’s reply for a word of advice for students of Hanyang was largely an extension of his attitude towards his research--to find an underlying passion. For the students insecure about their abilities and decisions regarding career and life, he would like to remind them that being a student of Hanyang itself is an indicator of their great potential. He feared to sound too cliché when he added, “Find what you want to do, and believe in yourself.”

 

Lee Chang-hyunn        pizz1125@hanyang.ac.kr
Photos by Choi Min-ju


 
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