Drug-eluting stents, coated with slow-release drugs to prevent the vessel from closing up again, came next. But these also had limitations, namely late-stent thrombosis, or stent-related blood clots.
"The drug-eluting stents are doing exactly what they were designed to do, which is inhibit the excessive tissue growth after the injury from the balloon angioplasty or bare metal stent platelet, and they are doing it well," Dehmer said. "The problem is that, at the same time, they are also inhibiting the normal healing response, or the cell growth that covers up the metal stent drugs and incorporates it into the vessel wall."
The new stent is known as an "endothelial progenitor cell-capturing" (EPC) stent. As their name implies, endothelial progenitor cells are those that have the ability to differentiate into endothelial cells, or those cells that line the walls of the arteries.
The first study, by German researchers at Muller Hospital Munich, presented data on 1,640 "real world" patients, mean age almost 63 years old. One-quarter of the patients were diabetic, two-thirds had high blood pressure, one-quarter were current smokers, and more than one-third had had a prior heart attack.
Almost 74 percent of the participants received statin drugs (which include Crestor, Lipitor or Zocor) prior to stenting. This family of cholesterol-lowering drugs also stimulates the number of endothelial progenitor cells in the blood.
At one year, only 1 percent of participants receiving the new stent had experienced a stent-related blood clot, 5.4 percent needed a revascularization on the same artery, and 5.1 percent underwent a catheter-based procedure to restore blood flow.
Just over 9 percent had a major adverse cardiac event such as a heart attack, unanticipated bypass surgery, or death. Just over 2 percent of patients died of cardiac causes, 1.8 percent of which were heart
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