Sat, Aug 11, 2012 - Page 5 News List

New technique improves heart therapy

BEATING THE PROBLEM:Although it has yet to undergo clinical trials, a university research team has high hopes for a cutting-edge technique to treat heart problems

Staff writer, with CNA

National Cheng Kung University associate professor Patrick Hsieh works in his lab in Greater Tainan on Wednesday. His research team recently made a major breakthrough in the regeneration of blood vessels in cardiovascular therapy by using new nanotechnology.

Photo: Meng Ching-tsu, Taipei Times

A research team at National Cheng Kung University has made a major breakthrough in the regeneration of blood vessels in cardiovascular therapy using new nanotechnology, said Patrick Hsieh (謝清河), an associate professor at the university’s Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine.

The new treatment breaks the 10-year bottleneck that heart repair treatment involving vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has faced, Hsieh said.

Traditional VEGF treatment, which is used for generating new blood vessels, is also believed to be applicable to the treatment of ischemic heart disease — a condition characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart.

However, traditional treatment has failed to produce results in nearly 20 clinical trials over the past 10 years, Hsieh said after publishing the research team’s paper in the newest edition of Science Translational Medicine, one of the world’s leading journals for scientific news and research.

The university’s treatment introduces the use of peptide nanofibers combined with VEGF, to stimulate the formation of new blood vessels, Hsieh said.

The research team found that in animal testing, the technique can lead to a 70 percent improvement in heart function. Moreover, the technique can increase regeneration of microvessels by over three-fold and increase the generation of new arteries by over five times, Hsieh added.

In the past, it was believed that myocardial cells become unrepairable and die as a result of reduced blood flow. The new technology not only creates a favorable micro-environment for revascularization, but also reduces the area of tissue affected by ischemia, Hsieh said.

Currently, there are no approved therapies in regenerative medicine for heart failure. The treatment has yet to undergo clinical trials, but the team hopes that in the future, the treatment can be used during cardiac catheterization to replace traditional open-heart surgery and that the treatment might be applicable to other diseases.

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