Josephine Allen – who just received the University of Florida’s Excellence Award for Assistant Professors – and Antonio Webb, recently won a $1.8 million NIH grant to develop a biodegradable heart stent that will improve post-surgical outcomes.
Their recent proposal, “nanocomposite drug eluting stents for inhibition of restenosis and thrombosis,” was selected for an NIH R01 grant from the National Heart Lung Blood Institute.
Both assistant professors are faculty in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. Allen studies cellular behavior in vascular settings; Webb focuses on the effect new materials have on targeted drug delivery.
Typically, a permanent stent is implanted after angioplasty surgery to prevent scar tissue from growing and blocking a blood vessel. Medications are delivered from the stent to inhibit cell growth in the area for the same reason, as well as to prevent the formation of blood clots. At present, these medications are not targeted. For the sake of preventing the growth of scar tissue, beneficial cell growth is also inhibited.
What Allen and Webb hope to do is create a biodegradable stent material that will allow for a more targeted drug delivery option, so that the blood vessel can be supported for an optimal window of time, during which time blood clots are prevented and beneficial cell growth is encouraged.
Their approach was selected for its ability to reduce the need for future interventions, to decrease mortality rates – specifically from heart attacks caused by late stent thrombosis – and to reduce healthcare costs.
In the past few years, Allen and Webb have collaborated on several projects and received a total of $3.3 million in research grants to study and address the challenges associated with vascular health – from agencies including NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and the American Heart Association.
Allen and Webb hope to collaborate with other materials science and engineering faculty at UF in future projects. Michele Manuel, who won the 2016 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, recently developed a biodegradable magnesium surgical pin to help heal broken bones. Allen says there is great interest and potential to develop biodegradable metal stents, which would incorporate Manuel’s alloys.
Writer: Jen Ambrose; firstname.lastname@example.org