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Next Generation Nanotechnology Could Prove Vital to Reducing Coronary Artery Disease

A nanomatrix for stent coating designed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) mimics natural endothelium, the substance that lines blood vessels, and promises the potential to prevent post-operative tissue scaring along the blood vessel wall, greatly reducing the possibility of future thrombosis, or blockage at the stent site. This next generation nanotechnology could prove vital to reducing coronary artery disease, the number one cause of death in the United States, said Ho-Wook Jun, Ph.D., a UAB assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering and principal investigator on the discovery.

Ho-Wook Jun, Ph.D., a UAB assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering.

Jun presented his findings Nov. 10 at the news conference on “Hi-Tech for the Heart” at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2008. He was one of three researchers selected to present at the news conference, a part of the annual AHA event this week in New Orleans that was expected to draw 20,000 attendees.

Jun and his team spent the past 18 months developing the coating technology, a biomimetic nanomatrix, or a synthetic system on a nanoscopic level, that can be applied to the drug-eluting stents implanted in 6 million patients worldwide over the last three years to open clogged blood vessels and prevent heart attack. The research was funded by a two-year, $240,000 Early Career Award grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.

“Blood vessels cannot recover full function with existing stents, but our coating could allow for a full recovery of the blood vessel,” Jun said. “This will increase the long-term success of stents, especially for the elderly who are more at risk for a secondary episode at the stent insertion point.”

Jun and his team’s work is part of UAB’s interdisciplinary approach to research, he said. Jun’s co-principal investigator, Brigitta Brott, M.D., along with collaborators Jack Lancaster, Ph.D., and Peter Anderson, Ph.D., all from the School of Medicine, have contributed valuable medical and health-based knowledge to the nanomatrix’s research and design.

Jun has submitted a patent for this revolutionary biomedical technology, and animal testing of the stent coating could begin by the first of the year. Jun believes the coating could be applied to a range of cardiovascular devices beyond stents, including vascular grafts or prosthetic heart valves, to improve overall cardio health.

“This technology has great potential for the future, and to be featured as a new frontier at the national AHA conference is a great honor,” Jun said.

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