University of Greenwich research offers hope for heart patients
Scientists from the University of Greenwich have won nearly three quarters of a million pounds of funding for a research project aimed at improving treatments for patients with heart problems.
Some patients, particularly those with heart disease, require tiny, artificial tubes to be inserted into their arteries. These tubes, known as stents, help keep the arteries open, which combats the effects of reduced blood flow, such as blood clots, in blocked arteries.
Researchers from the university’s School of Science are developing a new kind of stent, which has a special coating and slowly releases drugs into the patients’ blood stream, to help improve his or her condition.
The new stent is being developed by the University of Greenwich in partnership with two universities in France – Université Lille 1 and Université du Droit et de la Santé de Lille, also known as Université Lille II. The two-year research project has won more than 860,000 euros (or £740,000) of funding from the European Union’s INTERREG programme.
Professor Jeremy Everett, Head of Pharmaceutical, Chemical & Environmental Sciences at the University of Greenwich, said: “We are excited about the possibilities of improving cardiac medicine with this new technology.
“While stents have been around for many years, statistics show they can, unfortunately, still lead to post-operative complications, and sometimes death, after heart surgery. With our new type of stent we are hoping to decrease these complications and both extend, and improve, the lives of patients after surgery.”
Dr Dennis Douroumis, Senior Lecturer at the university’s School of Science, is leading the research project. He explained that, while many stents currently in use are simple tubes which keep the arteries open, the research being carried out by Greenwich and its French partners was aiming to deliver something innovative. “Our stent will have a special plastic coating, which will slowly deliver one or more drugs into the blood stream. This will help tackle problems that can arise around the heart such as infections, inflammation and thrombosis, or the clotting of blood,” he said.
Stents are most commonly used after angioplasty surgery, which is the technique of widening a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel. More than 45,000 angioplasties are carried out each year in the UK alone, and it is estimated that this number is even higher in France.
The universities of Greenwich and Lille are hoping to attract major commercial interest both in the UK and in Europe once they have produced the first prototype of the new stent.
The INTERREG scheme, which is funding the project, helps organisations across Europe to work together to share knowledge and improve economic, social and environmental conditions.
Researchers at the university’s School of Science also achieved a major breakthrough last year in the area of improved drug targeting. The research led by Dr Simon Richardson, which examined how to deliver existing drugs more effectively, and could possibly result in new treatments for diseases, was acclaimed by top international scientific journal, the Journal of Controlled Release.