Macrophages play a central role in atherosclerosis development and progression, hence, targeting macrophage activity is considered an attractive therapeutic. Recently, we documented nanomedicinal delivery of the anti-inflammatory compound prednisolone to atherosclerotic plaque macrophages in patients, which did however not translate into therapeutic efficacy. This unanticipated finding calls for in-depth screening of drugs intended for targeting plaque macrophages.
Methods and results
We evaluated the effect of several candidate drugs on macrophage activity, rating overall performance with respect to changes in cytokine release, oxidative stress, lipid handling, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and proliferation of macrophages. Using this in vitro approach, we observed that the anti-inflammatory effect of prednisolone was counterbalanced by multiple adverse effects on other key pathways. Conversely, pterostilbene, T0901317 and simvastatin had an overall anti-atherogenic effect on multiple pathways, suggesting their potential for liposomal delivery.
This dedicated assay setup provides a framework for high-throughput assessment. Further in vivo studies are warranted to determine the predictive value of this macrophage-based screening approach and its potential value in nanomedicinal drug development for cardiovascular patients.