TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A pair of Florida State University researchers have received a major grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study ways of preventing the body from developing scar tissue around biomedical devices such as coronary artery stents a problem that affects thousands of patients each year.
Joseph Schlenoff, the Mandelkern Professor of Polymer Science, interim chairman of the department of chemistry and biochemistry at FSU, and a member of FSUs Center for Materials Research and Technology (MARTECH), is the principal investigator on a research project that will receive $1.07 million from the NIH over four years. Working with him is the projects co-principal investigator, Thomas Keller, an associate professor of biology at FSU.
Together, Schlenoff and Keller will work to develop ways of coating coronary stents, synthetic heart valves, dialysis apparatuses and other biomedical devices with thin films that discourage vascular smooth muscle cells from adhering to their surfaces. Such adhesions often lead to scarring and new blockages a process known as restenosis.
Inflammation is the bodys natural response to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells or foreign bodies. In veins and arteries, inflammation can lead to a build-up of vascular smooth muscle cells, particularly around (and within) implanted devices such as stents wire mesh tubes that are used to prop open damaged arteries. For some patients, this growth of muscle cells can lead to restenosis after just six months.
"Sometimes the human body can be its own worst enemy," Schlenoff said. "For years, surgeons have used stents to reopen clogged coronary arteries only to see the stents themselves cause new blockages in some patients as the bodys natural defenses attempt to wall off the foreign substance. In our research project, were looking for ways to camouflage biomedical devices so that the body doesnt even know theyre there."