Regenerating blood vessels is important for combating the aftereffects of a heart attack or peripheral arterial disease, and for ensuring that transplanted organs receive a sufficient supply of blood. Now researchers at Northwestern University have created a nanomaterial that could help the body to grow new blood vessels.
Samuel Stupp and his colleagues developed a liquid that, when injected into patients, forms a matrix of loosely tangled nanofibers. Each of these fibers is covered in microscopic protuberances that mimic vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF—a protein that occurs naturally in the body and causes chemical reactions that result in the growth of new blood vessels. By mimicking VEGF, the nanofiber has the same biological effect.
Jeff Karp, director of the Laboratory for Advanced Biomaterials and Stem-Cell-Based Therapeutics at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, says, “this is an elegant approach to rationally design engineered materials to stimulate specific biological pathways.” Karp was not involved with the project.
Capillary action: The transparent circle in the center of this image is a nanomaterial designed to mimic the protein VEGF. Here, it has enhanced the growth of blood vessels in the membrane from a chicken egg after three days.
Credit: Matthew Webbe