Nanoparticles are uniquely suited for the study and development of potential therapies against atherosclerosis by virtue of their size, fine-tunable properties, and ability to incorporate therapies and/or imaging modalities. Furthermore, nanoparticles can be specifically targeted to the atherosclerotic plaque, evading off-target effects and/or associated cytotoxicity. There has been a wealth of knowledge available concerning the use of nanotechnologies in cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, in particular in animal models, but with a major focus on imaging agents. In fact, roughly 60% of articles from an initial search for this review included examples of imaging applications of nanoparticles. Thus, this review focuses on experimental therapy interventions applied to and observed in animal models. Particular emphasis is placed on how nanoparticle materials and properties allow researchers to learn a great deal about atherosclerosis. The objective of this review was to provide an update for nanoparticle use in imaging and drug delivery studies and to illustrate how nanoparticles can be used for sensing and modelling, for studying fundamental biological mechanisms, and for the delivery of biotherapeutics such as proteins, peptides, nucleic acids, and even cells all with the goal of attenuating atherosclerosis. Furthermore, the various atherosclerosis processes targeted mainly for imaging studies have been summarized in the hopes of inspiring new and exciting targeted therapeutic and/or imaging strategies.
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