Researchers in Ireland and Poland are testing what could be the next big stent innovation: Coating the devices with human-derived antibodies to conceal them from the body's immune system.
Such an enhancement, if successful, could make stent procedures even more ubiquitous than they already are, and alleviate critics' concerns about a major side effect. For some patients, the body's immune system can respond to the "foreign" stent by developing a new blockage, increasing the risk of heart attack a stent is meant to mitigate. As Irish Times and BioNews report, the coating is meant to lure the patient's own epithelial cells to the coating, camouflaging a stent from the body's immune system as a result. The as-yet-unproven theory is that this could reduce the chance for rejection and the accumulation of new blood clots.
"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," Gerard Wall, project leader, says in the Irish Times story.
Stent makers ranging from Boston Scientific ($BSX) and Medtronic ($MDT) to Abbott ($ABT) and more have scrambled to come out with new stent sizes, shapes and compositions. The goal: To create more treatment options and boost market share in what is becoming--in the U.S. and Europe, at least--a saturated market. Bioresorbable stents have also gained ground. Abbott recently launched Absorb in Europe, parts of Asia and Latin America--a product designed to release a drug to treat coronary artery disease and then dissolve in about two years, eliminating any worries about the body rejecting the stent and developing new blood clots in response. (We wonder how closely the major stent makers will be watching this new study).
The $1.5 million, European Union-funded project will play out over four years, both stories note, with a goal of having a viable prototype that can be advanced to market. Industry and academia are partnering on the project: Polish stent maker Balton, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded biomaterials program at NUI Galway, Wroclaw University of Technology and Wroclaw Medical University in Poland.