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Two Biomedical Engineering Professors Recognized as Innovators

September 15, 2004

The Dallas Business Journal has named Biomedical Engineering Drs. Robert C. Eberhart and Kevin D. Nelson of The University of Texas at Arlington finalists in its recognition of healthcare innovators. The two were cited for their development of a coronary artery stent and a nerve regeneration process.

Dr. Eberhart teaches and conducts research in the joint biomedical engineering program of UTA and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Dr. Eberhart is the co-inventor, along with Dr. Shih-Horng Su, of an expandable, bioresorbable coronary artery stent. Their work was conducted while Su was a doctoral student at UTA. The stent is coated with endothelial cells, which resist fracture and are able to protect the injured vessel wall. The stent dissolves away with time, so a second surgery is not necessary as it would be to remove a metal stent.

Drs. Eberhart and Su conducted their pioneering work for the development with support from the National Institutes of Health. In addition to being a mechanical support, the bioresorbable stent can be used as a vehicle for the delivery of drugs and gene therapy.

Dr. Nelson, in a collaborative effort with Dr. George Smith of the University of Kentucky, is in the fourth year of a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop applications leading to nerve regeneration. Their work involves dorsal root ganglion cells to recreate mylanated axons, which conduct the electrical impulses along the nervous system. The team has successfully repaired a 18mm gap in the sciatic nerve of a rat and hopes to soon move from these peripheral nerves to those in the central nervous system.

Dr. Nelson is also working on fibers that promote angiogenesis – the creation of new blood vessels – leading to cardiac revascularization. He has completed successful tests on rabbits, using a single strand of fiber to transport the angiofactors.