UI researchers develop new method to decrease the risk of strokes

Researchers from different departments within the UI have found a new way to help patients who are at-risk for strokes by creating a new protein-infused coating that can be applied to brain stents.


Joseph Cress

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics building is seen from the west on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.

Jordan Prochnow, News Reporter

In order to decrease the number of blood clots, researchers from the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and the UI Optical Science and Technology Center have found a new option for brain stents.

Blood clots can lead to strokes in patients who suffer brain aneurysms.

Researchers from different departments worked together in order to improve the smoothness and functionality of stents, tubular supports placed temporarily in arteries to stop clotting and obstructions. The team focused on finding a coating to apply to stents, which would decrease the likelihood of a stroke, said Aju Jugessur, the director of the Microfabrication Facility in the Optical Center.

According to the American Stroke Association, strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States. Because strokes affect a large segment of the American population, UI neurosurgery Professor David Hasan, who led the team of researchers, decided to find a more viable option for assisting patients who may be at risk.

“I treat my patients with brain aneurysms by placing this stent across the neck of the aneurysm,” Hasan said. “Because these patients require anti-platelets therapy, I tried to minimize that or eliminate it, so I thought of creating a coating that could help.”

The breakthrough, which has a thickness of approximately 30 nanometers, offers a protein-infused coating to be applied to stents in order to reduce blood clotting. The coating is nearly 3,000 times thinner than the human hair, Hasan said.

“The nano-coating developed by the UI team will improve the blood flow in the stent device by enhancing the anti-clot properties and will function more effectively for a longer time and improve patient survival rate,” Jugessur said.

Hasan worked with researchers specializing in chemistry, neuroscience, pharmaceutical sciences, and other fields in order to find a new treatment.

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UI Associate Professor of chemistry Ned Bowden said that a new kind of stent was needed in order to ensure that patients wouldn’t continue to suffer from more problems after undergoing treatment for brain aneurysms.

“The problem when you put something foreign in your body is that it causes clogging,” Bowden said. “Your proteins bind to it, and there’s a whole cascade of problems that can happen.”

After patients suffer from an aneurysm or other brain-related problems, he said, they are given anti-clotting medication. He noted that 3 to 5 percent of patients can die while on those medications.

“If we can get the stent worked out and commercialized, our goal is to help those 3 to 5 percent of people,” he said.

The stent, while not yet tested in human trials, has done well in animal trials, Hasan said.

According to the results of the laboratory tests, which were recently published in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Nano Materials, showed that “the technology has the potential to make a significant patient-care impact.” In the future, the team hopes to investigate the flexibility of terminative and reactive platform layers.

“We tested in baboons, and it works,” Hasan said. “Now, we have to find a larger company to help us translate it into clinical practice after doing trials with humans.”