A UT Arlington bioengineer has received a four-year, $1.4 million National Institutes of Health grant to create a nanoparticle system to shore up arterial walls following angioplasty and stenting procedures to treat coronary arterial disease.
Kytai Nguyen, a UT Arlington associate professor of bioengineering, said the research looks to improve an established procedure like angioplasty, which opens arteries and blood vessels that are blocked.
"We have discovered a way to use nanoparticles to help the arteries heal themselves more effectively following one of the most common surgical procedures," said Nguyen, who joined UT Arlington in 2005. "This process promises to reduce complications that can occur in the arteries following surgery and may extend opportunities for patients to live longer, healthier lives."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 1 million people in the United States have angioplasty or stent procedures done annually.
Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the College of Engineering, said Dr. Nguyen is specializing in developing innovative techniques for drug delivery which critical to advancing health care.
"Earning a National Institutes of Health grant puts Dr. Nguyen in very exclusive company," Behbehani said. The NIH reported that only 16.8 percent of its nearly 50,000 applications in 2013 were awarded grants. "Receiving this grant reflects the cutting-edge research that Dr. Nguyen is conducting. Her investigation will help improve the efficacy of stents in treating cardiovascular anomalies."
Following the angioplasty or stent, surgeons would insert the nanoparticles at the affected site, and the nanoparticles would attach themselves to the arterial wall. The nanoparticles would be programmed to recruit stem cells, which would regenerate the arterial wall's weakened cells naturally, Nguyen said.
Once cell regeneration is well under way, the nanoparticles will dissipate, she said.
The process addresses concerns that arise when a person's underlying smooth muscle cells migrate to the weakened arterial walls and the blood cells attack this damaged site.
"Your body naturally will send smooth muscle cells to the weakened walls," Nguyen said. "That creates a whole host of problems the body doesn't need. It could cause re-narrowing of an artery, leading to a heart attack."
Liping Tang, bioengineering professor and interim chair of the Bioengineering Department, said Nguyen's work makes the surgery safer for the patient.
"Using nanotechnology to solve the problem before it even occurs is ingenious," Tang said.
Nguyen previously received an American Heart Association grant to study how physical and biological factors influence the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells, a condition that can lead to heart disease. She recently received another American Heart Association grant to develop advanced particle scaffolds for treatments of peripheral arterial disease.
She also has teamed with a UT Southwestern colleague to develop a nanoparticle drug delivery system that will help stimulate lung growth and function after partial lung removal or destructive lung disease.