New stent for old hearts

Engineers at Stentys have developed a stent in which a side branch can be created after it is implanted in a vessel.

Heart attacks kill 500,000 people in the US each year, caused by fatty cholesterol lesions that narrow coronary arteries (stenosis), depriving the heart muscle of oxygen.

For years, the only available treatment was by-pass surgery, an open-chest procedure. In the 1990s, cardiologists replaced surgery with a minimally invasive intervention: with just a small hole in the leg, they managed to place a stent (a small metal tube) inside the heart’s arteries to keep them open.

The recent addition of a drug coating on stents to prevent re-narrowing (restenosis) of blood vessels boosted the market value of stents to $5.4bn in 2006.

But some coronary artery disease patients are still not cured completely. Even with the most advanced drug-eluting stents, treatment of bifurcations (where one vessel branches from another) is ineffective in 23-26 per cent of cases.

Bifurcated areas are a common location for buildup of plaque and are particularly difficult to treat with currently available stents because of the risk of blocking blood flow to the side vessel.

Fortunately, now there’s a solution to the problem, thanks to engineers at Paris-based Stentys who have developed a new stent in which a side branch can be created anywhere in it after it has been implanted in a vessel.

Clinical results from a recent trial have proved promising. ‘The Stentys bifurcation stent represents a promising technique for optimal treatment of bifurcated lesions. The procedure is identical to known techniques and makes possible excellent reconstruction of the bifurcation,’ said Dr Eberhard Grube, chief of Cardiology and Angiology at Helios Heart Centre in Siegburg, Germany.

On the financial front, the company has recently attracted $18m worth of cash in a funding round led by Scottish Equity Partners. The investment in the French company was also supported by the company’s existing investor Sofinnova Partners. Stentys will use the funds to accelerate its progress towards attaining European regulatory approval for its novel device.