Dr Gerard Wall
A new type of cardiovascular stent, coated in antibodies to improve biocompatibility and effectiveness, is now under development in Ireland and Poland. Scientists at National University of Ireland Galway are to lead a €1.2 million EU project which aims to reduce re-narrowing of arteries and the need for further interventions, through the development of novel cardiovascular stent materials.
National University of Ireland Galway’s Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB), a Science Foundation Ireland funded strategic research cluster, and the University’s microbiology department will head the four year project. This is the fifth successful EC funded grant that NFB has secured in the last two years.
“About half of all deaths from cardiovascular diseases are due to coronary artery disease, which occurs when the coronary arteries become hardened and narrowed due to the build-up of plaques on their inner walls or lining,” explains National University of Ireland Galway microbiologist Dr Gerard Wall, who is leading the project. “This EU project brings together researchers from important medical device clusters in Ireland and Poland, involved at all stages of the stent design and development pipeline, to develop a novel product to reduce restenosis, which is one of the major current limitations of stent performance.”
“Our plan is to create a new type of coating on the stents using human antibody fragments,” explains Dr Wall. “Once the stent is in place, we hope these antibodies will attract a layer of the patient’s own epithelial cells. This should effectively camouflage the stent as far as the body is concerned, and it will no longer be such a foreign object. Our theory is that this will reduce the potential for rejection, the level of clot build-up, and also significantly improve the long-term outcome of surgical interventions.”
Coronary heart diseases, including myocardial infarction, are commonly triggered by the build up of plaques in the inner walls of coronary arteries, leading to stenosis and reduced blood flow to the heart. This is the most common cause of death in Europe, accounting for approximately two million deaths each year.
This condition can be successfully treated by angioplasty to reopen blockages and the insertion of a stent to keep arteries open. However, not all stents continue to perform perfectly over time. Cells such as macrophages and smooth muscle cells can grow over the stent surface and cause clot formation, once again clogging the arteries. While anti-clotting drugs can be used, the risk of rejection of the foreign stent material remains a problem.
The project brings together three academic partners National University of Ireland Galway, and Poland’s Wrocław University of Technology and Wrocław Medical University. These are joined by Vornia, a Galway-based start-up biomedical company and the multi-national stent manufacturer Balton, which has its headquarters in Poland.
The project is funded under the Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) scheme of the EU’s FP7 2012 People Work Programme. The programme will provide cross-sectoral research training, career development opportunities and knowledge sharing pathways to 16 researchers involved in the project, in addition to hosting networking and dissemination events open to 30-40 additional researchers in the partner groups.
“The project is an excellent example of the importance of strong industry-academia cooperation in the development of commercially viable products,” adds Dr Wall. “Both university and industry-based researchers will spend considerable time working in the opposite work sector during the project as both sectors recognise that genuine partnership in this manner is the best way to nurture creative research ideas into leading edge products that have unmet clinical need.”
Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway