Cardiovascular stent could improve surgical outcomes

A new type of cardiovascular stent, coated in antibodies to improve biocompatibility and effectiveness, is now under development in Ireland and Poland.

Scientists at National University of Ireland Galway are to lead a €1.2m (£964,585) EU project to reduce the re-narrowing of arteries and the need for further interventions through the development of novel cardiovascular stent materials.

National University of Ireland Galway’s Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB), a Science Foundation Ireland-funded strategic research cluster, and the university’s microbiology department will head the four-year project.

‘About half of all deaths from cardiovascular diseases are due to coronary artery disease, which occurs when the coronary arteries become hardened and narrowed due to the build-up of plaques on their inner walls or lining,’ said National University of Ireland Galway microbiologist Dr Gerard Wall, who is leading the project.

‘Our plan is to create a new type of coating on the stents using human antibody fragments,’ said Wall in a statement. ‘Once the stent is in place, we hope these antibodies will attract a layer of the patient’s own epithelial cells. This should effectively camouflage the stent as far as the body is concerned, and it will no longer be such a foreign object. Our theory is that this will reduce the potential for rejection and the level of clot build-up and also significantly improve the long-term outcome of surgical interventions.’

Coronary heart diseases, including myocardial infarction, are commonly triggered by the build-up of plaques in the inner walls of coronary arteries, leading to stenosis and reduced blood flow to the heart. This is said to be the most common cause of death in Europe, accounting for approximately two million deaths each year.

This condition can be treated by angioplasty to re-open blockages and the insertion of a stent to keep arteries open. However, not all stents continue to perform perfectly over time. Cells such as macrophages and smooth muscle cells can grow over the stent surface and cause clot formation, once again clogging the arteries. While anti-clotting drugs can be used, the risk of rejection of the foreign stent material remains a problem.

The project brings together three academic partners: National University of Ireland Galway and Poland’s Wrocław University of Technology and Wrocław Medical University. These are joined by Vornia, a Galway-based start-up biomedical company, and multinational stent manufacturer Balton, which has its headquarters in Poland.