Northwestern University researchers have developed a novel nanostructure that promotes the growth of new blood vessels and shows promise as a therapy for conditions where increased blood flow is needed to supply oxygen to tissue.
“An important goal in regenerative medicine is the ability to grow blood vessels on demand,” Samuel I. Stupp, board of trustees professor of chemistry, materials science, engineering and medicine stated in a press release. “Enhancing blood flow at a given site is important where blood vessels are constricted or obstructed as well as in organ transplantation where blood is needed to feed the cells properly.”
Stupp and his team designed an artificial structure that, like the natural protein it mimics, can trigger a cascade of complex events that promote the growth of new blood vessels. The nanostructure mimics vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
The nanostructure, however, exhibits important advantages over VEGF. The nanostructure remains in the tissue where it is needed for a longer period of time and it is easily injected as a liquid to the tissue. Also, relative to the protein, it is inexpensive to produce. VEGF was tested in human clinical trials but without good results, possibly due to it remaining in the tissue for only a few hours.
“Using simple chemistry, we have produced an artificial structure by design that can trigger complex events,” Stupp said. “Our nanostructure shows the promise of a general approach to mimicking proteins for broader use in medicine and biotechnology.”