Gel may help heart disease patients

4 January 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

lab–rat.jpgA gel made of compounds found naturally in the body could be used to grow new blood vessels, research on rats has shown.

Blocked arteries and blood vessels are a main cause of coronary heart disease. Fats and cholesterol in the blood can accumulate in vessels resulting in a clot or blockage which reduces the flow of blood to the heart. Now researchers have developed a gel which can create new vessels, bypassing the blockage, and restoring the flow of blood around the body.

The gel contains enzymes which help break down blood vessel tissue as well as a growth factor (VEGF) that helps build new ones. Rats injected with the gel to treat a blood clot in the leg had a full return to normal circulation within two weeks. Over time the gel broke down completely and was replaced with normal tissue.

The researchers think the gel could also be used to treat type-1diabetes, in cases where patients are given an implant of islet cells from the pancreas. Here the gel would be used to enrich a specific site with blood, helping the insulin-producing islet cells to function.

In the UK, more than 70,000 people die of coronary heart disease each year. The team hope their research will one day be able to help treat millions of patients worldwide.