Nanomaterial improves on VEGF for blood-vessel growth

Vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, can be our friend or enemy. When working properly, the protein creates new blood vessels after an injury and to bypass blocked vessels. When overexpressed, though, VEGF can lead to vascular diseases in the retina and elsewhere. But even when VEGF is doing its job properly, it still does not quite get us where we want to go in regenerative medicine. It does not stick around long enough. So, scientists at Northwestern University have created a nanomaterial that mimics all the good things about VEGF, then gives us something extra, when treating ischemia--or tissue deprived of oxygen.

"One of the major challenges in the field of ischemic tissue repair is sustained delivery of therapeutic agents to target tissue," Northwestern's Douglas W. Losordo, a co-author of a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a release. "Native VEGF has a very short tissue half-life, limiting its potency and requiring repeat dosing. By virtue of its engineering, this nanomaterial mimics VEGF but is capable of much longer life in the tissue, greatly enhancing its potency."

The artificial nanostructure can, like natural VEGF, promote growth of new blood vessels. But, unlike its natural counterpart, remains in the tissue for a long period of time and is cheaper to produce than VEGF. Next up in the project: see how the new nanomaterial does after a heart attack in animal models.

- read the release from Northwestern University
- and the abstract in PNAS