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Professor Tony Kim Receives AHA Award to Further Research in Ending Heart Disease

YongTae “Tony” Kim, faculty member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience and the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, recently received an American Heart Association (AHA) National Scientist Development Grant to help him combat the US's #1 killer, atherosclerosis.

“Atherosclerosis is a time sensitive disease, and once you have it, it’s hard to stop it,” says Kim, assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our goal is to engineer a new nanometer scale material that can deliver genetic codes effectively to treat unhealthy blood cells in atherosclerotic plaques.”

The teams engineered delivery vehicles will combine a mimic of the natural HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol) nanoparticles present in human blood and imaging agents to help view the paque build-up, as well as biological molecules to enable the target delivery of genetic material  to failing cells that will improve their function, alleviating the effects of atherosclerosis.

“We plan to determine if our engineered HDL vehicles provide an improved treatment option for atherosclerosis,” says Kim, who plans to use cutting-edge microfluidic dynamics technology to synthesize the proposed nanocarriers, or vehicles, “which is highly reproducible through the continuous synthesis process in microfluidics,” he adds.

“This project will have several outcomes with the potential to impact treatment of cardiovascular disease,” Kim says. For one thing, it will produce a new therapeutic platform capable of treating unhealthy blood vessel cells with minimal side effects. It also promotes the development of a novel, versatile platform for the study of microvasculature diseases.

“These new technologies will contribute to the development of a novel therapeutic and diagnostic paradigm for the study and treatment of atherosclerosis,” says Kim, whose grant is for $308,000 over four years.