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Bioengineers Receive NIH Grant to Develop Safer Implanted Devices

March 1, 2007

The National Institutes of Health have awarded a three-year, $211,000 grant to a team of biomedical engineers to develop methods to reduce unwanted side effects in implanted devices. University of Texas at Arlington Assistant Professor Kytai T. Nguyen is the principal investigator on the project. She will be collaborating with Dr. Richard Timmons of the Chemistry Department at UT Arlington, Dr. Cam Patterson of the Cardiology Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Dr. Solomon Su of Texas Stent Technology.

Cardiovascular devices such as stents, vascular grafts and heart valves are used extensively in clinical applications. However, these devices frequently cause adverse responses such as thrombosis (the formation of a blood clot in an artery), inflammation and restenosis (the re-narrowing of a coronary artery after it has been treated with angioplasty or stents). Although the mechanisms causing these problems are complicated, one of the well-known factors is the lack of a natural barrier – a functional endothelial cells lining on the surface of these devices. The goal of this research is to enhance the endothelial cell lining on the vascular devices by mimicking the natural vascular environment.

The team’s first approach will be the modification of the prosthetic surface with extracellular matrix proteins (such as collagen and fibronectin) mainly found in the blood vessels. Another strategy will be the surface delivery of vascular endothelial growth factors that stimulate endothelial cells. The seeded cells will also be genetically modified to enhance the cell growth. The effects of these strategies will be evaluated both in vitro and in vivo.

“The results from this project will have an immense impact in the fighting of cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of death in the world,” said Dr. Nguyen. “They will also advance knowledge into many biomedical fields, including vascular tissue engineering.”