Coating could extend life of medical implants

The long-term performance of medical implants could be enhanced by new bio-coating technology developed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

The patent-pending technology is a novel bio-nanomatrix coating, or a bio-engineered material on the nano scale, that mimics natural endothelium, the substance that lines blood vessels. This biocompatibility — the ability to promote the body’s acceptance of implant devices such as heart valves and cardiac stents — can help prevent post-operative tissue scarring that sometimes leads to thrombosis, or blood-flow blockage, among the reported 10 million people who receive implants annually.

’By mimicking natural endothelium, the nanomatrix coating essentially transforms injured blood vessels to a healthy condition at implant sites, and it has great potential for many applications,’ said Dr Ho-Wook Jun, the co-inventor of the technology and UAB assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

’Implanted devices, such as stents, prosthetic heart valves, vascular grafts and indwelling catheters have revolutionised patient care,’ added co-inventor Dr Brigitta Brott, a UAB associate professor of medicine. ’By improving the body’s acceptance of these devices to reduce blood-clot formation and scar-tissue growth, we will greatly improve the quality of life for patients and also potentially drive down healthcare costs by reducing the need for follow-up procedures.’

Brott says US healthcare costs connected to repeat procedures necessitated by clots and blood-flow blockage is estimated at more than $65m (£41m) each year.

The bio-nanomatrix, developed with other interdisciplinary researchers from the UAB schools of medicine and engineering, has now been licensed by the UAB Research Foundation to Endomimetics, a UAB spin-out founded by Jun and Brott. The UAB bio-nanomatrix is claimed to be the only such coating of its kind, although some similar products are in the development pipeline.