Developing a new solution to treat atherosclerosis

We’ve all eaten rich meals or fatty foods and joked that we can feel our ‘arteries hardening’. However, the reality of atherosclerosis – when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the artery walls and form solid structures called plaques – is no joking matter. The consequences of this disorder can include stroke and coronary artery disease, the leading cause of death in many developed countries.

Now, a new scientific project involving IBEC and three other European research centres is set to offer a novel, minimally-invasive treatment for atherosclerosis patients, thanks to funding awarded by the European Commission.

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The “The Grail” project will develop a bioactive and bioresorbable scaffold able to locally regenerate the vessel after endovascular surgery – when the atheroma or accumulation in the obstructed arteries is removed – in patients with the disorder.

“The purpose of this in vivo deployable scaffold, which won’t require mechanical removal, is to offer an alternative treatment to mechanical re-channelling or bypassing of obstructed arteries,” explains Elisabeth Engel, senior researcher in IBEC’s Biomaterials for Regenerative Therapies group, which will carry out the research. “Using a regenerative approach compatible with current minimally invasive surgical techniques, the scaffold will substitute the diseased and stiffened area of artery and be repopulated by resident and circulating cells.

“When it is absorbed harmlessly by the body once its task is completed, all that is left will be physiologically responsive, regenerated tissue.”

The project will take 60 months to complete and will also involve researchers at the universities of Liverpool (UK), Valladolid (ES) and Naples Federico II (IT), a clinical centre at the University Medical Centre of Utrecht (NL), and four industry partners from Italy, Spain and Switzerland.


This story was covered in Catalunya Vanguardista magazine on 1 March: