Irish study to 'camouflage' stents in body


A NEW study which is led by researchers in Galway is looking to “camouflage” implanted stent devices in the body to reduce long-term complications.

The EU-funded project aims to produce a stent coated with molecules that will encourage cells to grow on the device and stop the immune system from recognising it as “foreign”.

“(In) coronary artery disease you get plaque development – cholesterol, various cell components, bits of cells, lipids [which] build up in the arteries and can ultimately lead to what we call stenosis or narrowing, which can result in a heart attack,” explained project leader Dr Gerard Wall, a senior lecturer in microbiology at NUI Galway.

“One of the main treatments is to reopen the blockages using stents, which are metallic devices that you insert with a balloon, then you inflate the balloon and the metal expands and provides a new structure or framework to hold the vessel open.”

However, a potential problem with stents is that the body can recognise the implanted device as foreign and react to it.

“You can get reblockage,” explained Dr Wall.

“So we are trying to coat the stent with a surface coating of endothelial cells in order to make it look completely normal to the body to avoid this blockage.”

The four-year €1.2 million project is seeking to put fragments of human-derived antibodies on the surface of the stent.

Then, when the stent is in an artery, the antibody fragments should encourage endothelial cells from the body to grow on it and camouflage the device.

The project involves the Science Foundation Ireland-funded network of excellence for functional biomaterials at NUI Galway, Wroclaw University of Technology and Wroclaw Medical University, Galway-based start-up biomedical company Vornia and stent manufacturer Balton, which is headquartered in Poland.

“At the end of the project we hope to have a stent prototype which has gone through pre-clinical testing and is moving towards market,” said Dr Wall.