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International Study Reveals Ways to Reduce Implant Rejections

September 7, 2007

A bioengineering researcher at the University of Texas at Arlington College of Engineering recently joined with colleagues in Kentucky and Sweden to make a significant breakthrough in developing novel strategies to reduce the body’s rejection of implanted medical devices. An estimated 8 to 10 percent of the U. S. population currently has permanent medical implants.

Bioengineering Associate Professor Liping Tang and his associates – Dr. John W. Eaton of the Brown Cancer Center at the University of Louisville and Dr. Johann Zdolsek of the Department of Hand and Plastic Surgery at the University Hospital in Linköping – evaluated the effects of fibrinogen (tissue forming the structure of an organ) and histamine (a chemical involved in many allergic reactions) on implant surfaces. Earlier studies suggested these were actively involved in biomaterial-mediated acute inflammatory responses.

Although most implant materials are inert, non-immunogenic and non-toxic, the devices often trigger a variety of adverse reactions, such as thrombosis, inflammation, device-centered infections and fibrotic tissue formation around tissue implants and prostheses. Consequently, intensive research efforts have been devoted to the development of novel strategies to improve tissue compatibility with medical devices.

In the human study conducted in Linköping, volunteers were implanted with polyethylene teraphthalate (PET) disks pre-coated with their own fibrinogen-containing plasma or fibrinogen-free serum. In addition, some of the volunteers were given anti-histamine blockers.

The results demonstrated that plasma-coated implants accumulated significantly more phagocytes (cell-devouring white blood cells) than did serum-coated implants. Rather unexpectedly, the administration of histamine blockers, commonly used to treat allergy responses, greatly reduced the inflammation associated with medical implants. The results from this human study provide an important clue on medical device design that biocompatible implants should be engineered to minimize fibrinogen adsorption. Equally important, this study shows that immune rejection to medical implants may be substantially diminished with the help of over the counter histamine blockers.

These findings were published in the July 2007 issue of Journal of Translational Medicine (Volume 5, number 31), available online at http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/5/1/31.

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