Losordo also is the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine and director of the Program in Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
"We approached this as an engineering problem," said first author Matthew Webber, a doctoral student in Stupp's research group at the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine (IBNAM). "To be able to design and create a small molecule that can assemble into nanostructures that function therapeutically is rewarding."
Stupp and his team created a nanostructure in the form of a fiber that displays on its surface a high density of peptides (potentially hundreds of thousands) per fiber. The peptides mimic the biological effect of VEGF, initiating the signaling process in cells that leads to blood vessel growth.
The extremely large number of active peptides results in a very potent therapeutic, and the size and stability of the nanofiber ensure the structure is retained longer in the tissue after injection.
After developing the nanostructure, Stupp and Webber teamed up with Losordo to test the nanostructures in vivo.
The researchers used an animal model of peripheral arterial disease and demonstrated the effectiveness of the nanofiber in treating the condition. In animals whose limbs were restricted to only 5 to 10 percent of normal blood flow, treatment with the nanofiber resulted in blood flow being restored to 75 to 80 percent of normal levels.
Treatment with the peptide alone did not produce the same therapeutic effect; the nanostructure was needed to display the peptides to produce results.
"Using simple chemistry, we have produced an artificial structure by design that can tr
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