A new Israeli drug applied before angioplasty is designed to prevent the re-closing of arteries opened by the surgical procedure.A researcher at the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy in Jerusalem has developed a drug designed to help prevent the recurrence of artery blockage, or atherosclerosis, the disease responsible for half of all deaths in the United States and other Western countries.

Most heart disease results from blockage of arteries, but the standard treatment for atherosclerosis, angioplasty, has limitations. Patients who receive angioplasty, a minor surgical procedure that pushes a balloon attached to a catheter through the artery to reopen it, develop a new arterial blockage 30 to 40 percent of the time just a few months after undergoing the procedure. In many cases, patients then require open-heart surgery to correct the problem.

The new drug, discovered by Dr. Gershon Golomb, the school of pharmacy’s chairman, is applied before angioplasty and has been effective in clinical tests on rats, pigs, and rabbits to prevent development of the new blockage.

The drug is designed to alter the steps the human body takes to heal itself in order to eliminate destructive inflammation. In normal circumstances, the body treats the area where the angioplasty was performed as if it were a wound and sends cells to the area called macrophages, which ingest bacteria in the body in an effort to fight the wound. But, the macrophage activity can result in a new blockage.

Golomb describes his therapy as a “Trojan horse” because it contains tiny liposomes embedded with a molecule that is toxic to macrophages. The macrophages ingest the liposomes and the liposomes release toxic matter that destroys the macrophages, but is not dangerous to the body.

“By blocking an inflammatory response, the drug will give the body a chance to heal the injury caused by the angioplasty,” Golomb said.

The next step for the drug will be human clinical trials, which Golomb says are likely to take place in Israel, and will begin immediately. Following successful testing and approval, the drug will be released and marketed internationally.
“The drug will probably be produced in Israel, but once a trial product is available it will be sold anywhere in the world that the angioplasty procedure is performed. The dosage form is suitable for any type of angioplasty,” Golomb said.

After completing his doctoral studies at Hebrew University, Golomb did post-doctoral work at Harvard Medical School, and at the chemical engineering department at MIT. Golomb first encountered novel drug delivery systems during his stay in Boston and worked on the creation of drugs to prevent bone calcification to treat osteoporosis, malignancy and bone deterioration.

Golomb later returned to Hebrew University where his work combined the two areas of drug delivery systems and cardiovascular care.

Golomb has received international attention for his recent development and serves as a representative of Israel’s positive contributions to the world of science and technology.

“No one ever questioned that Israelis are smart, have top-notch universities, excellent scientists and bio-technical breakthroughs,” Golomb
said. “The scientific, industrial world is more educated and well informed. Scientists continue their visits here (despite the conflict) and share knowledge and ideas with the Israeli scientific community.”