Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is based on the use of a photozensitising compound which is accumulated by rapidly proliferating cells. Subsequent irradiation with light wavelengths specifically absorbed by the photosensitiser promotes the generation of reactive short-lived oxygen species which cause an irreversible and selective damage. Endovascular interventions to correct obstructive arterial disease have been developed worldwide with excellent short term results. However, long term patency is still limited by the onset of restenosis, due to subsequent intimal hyperplasia (IH). IH is characterized by proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells (SMC) and extracellular matrix production. Targeting of SMC by photozensitisers can be efficiently achieved by taking advantage of the receptors for low density lipoproteins (LDL) expressed by such cells. Thus, preference is given to hydrophobic compounds which readily partition in the lipid matrix of LDL. We developed a liposomal formulation of a highly hydrophobic photozensitising agent, Zn(II)- phthalocyanine (ZnPc). The liposome-delivered ZnPc was readily taken up by cultured SMC cells and preferentially localized in the Golgi apparatus. Red light irradiation of incubated SMC induced cell death. Extension of these investigations to an in vivo rabbit model showed that ZnPc mainly accumulated in the media layer, where PDT induces the main damage through cellular depletion due to apoptosis of SMC, changes in the extracellular matrix with generation of a barrier to cellular migration, and acceleration of re-endothelization. Initial clinical applications showed that PDT safely and effectively prevents restenosis after angioplasty up to a 6 month follow-up.
Keywords: Photodynamic therapy, photosensitization, porphyrins, phthalocyanines, singlet oxygen, restenosis, balloon angioplasty, intimal hyperplasia
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