Engineering Our Arteries: Replacements And Assisted Healing

February 12, 1998

To combat heart disease and problems that arise after angioplasty, the balloon procedure used to open clogged arteries, Rice bioengineer Jennifer West is developing alternatives like bioengineered arteries -- including assisted healing that will stop clotting and allow healthy cells to grow. She is working to grow arteries by developing scaffolding materials on which genetically engineered cells can be planted. Like surgical sutures, the scaffold dissovles away as the new growth takes over. She ultimately wants scaffolds available in multiple sizes -- most needed are those smaller than six millmeters -- and then she wants to seed them with the patient's own cells. She also is developing polymer materials that can be coated on the arteries and that release nitric oxide, a key chemical that reduces clotting and assists in the healing process. She aims to apply the polymer through the catheter that is used to do the balloon angioplasty. The technique could prevent the need for another angioplasty procedure, (50 percent of arteries reclose, sending the patient back to the operating room), and it could prevent some of the need to go to bypass surgery.
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Rice University

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