Our scientists pioneering world first stent coating
There’s no doubt that cardiac implants or stents save lives. Coronary heart disease - a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels of the heart - kills around 23,000 Australians each year and hospitalises 600,000.
The small scaffold stent props open the diseased artery to prevent heart attacks. But because the body treats stents as foreign, the risk of blood clots is ever present.
Narrowing or blocking of the stented blood can occur in as many as half of all patients. This can cause a relapse of chest pain and other symptoms, and in extreme cases can be fatal. ‘Drug eluting’ stents were made to address this, secreting drugs to lower the risk of re-narrowing, but the trade-off is a higher risk of heart attack due to blood clots forming in the stent.
In a joint project, researchers from the Immunobiology Group and the Translational Reserch and Bioengineering Group, are developing the world’s first stent coating technology that uses a biomimicry approach, fooling the body so that it integrates with the foreign stent. This will hopefully mean in the future doctors will be able to implant stents that are more compatible with the body, leading to better outcomes for cardiac patients, and less subsequent risk of complications and death.
“The problem with the current steel stents is that they are not biocompatible: they are prone to blood clotting and cells don’t like growing on them. That translates to going back to hospital in three to five years. Some people think that’s a reasonable trade-off, to go and get your stent fixed up every few years. Our argument is that we can do better,” says Dr Christina Bursill, Immunobiology Group Leader at the Heart Research Institute.
“This remarkable coating technology achieves a 10-fold reduction in clotting and enhances blood vessel healing after the stent is placed, thereby improving the outcomes of patients undergoing stenting procedures. This result has profound implications for the development of next generation stents with much better clinical outcomes for patients.”