Researchers have developed nanoparticles that localize to arterial plaques and provide a possible new means to diagnose and treat atherosclerosis. Early detection of atherosclerosis is difficult and effective therapies are not available, making the condition a common cause of death worldwide. Plaques that are the hallmark of the disease form when white blood cells called macrophages attract cholesterol and agglomerate in arteries. These buildups can cause heart attacks, and when macrophages die, they can cause plaques to rupture and block blood flow, potentially causing strokes. High-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good cholesterol”) deters plaque formation by promoting transport of cholesterol from plaques to the liver for excretion. In 2013, Shanta Dhar’s group at the University of Georgia reported the development of synthetic nanoparticles that mimic HDL functionally. In San Diego last week, Dhar and coworkers reported a modified version. The nanoparticles include a sugar-based macrophage-targeting ligand; an apolipoprotein-like peptide to bind cholesterol; and a magnetic agent that allows magnetic resonance imaging of plaques. After zeroing in on atherosclerotic lesions with their targeting ligands, the nanoparticles transport macrophages and cholesterol to the liver for disposal. Dhar hopes to begin clinical trials of the nanoparticles in a few years.