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Taiwanese university makes breakthrough in heart treatment

2012/08/09 19:30:50

Taipei, Aug. 9 (CNA) A National Cheng Kung University research team has made a major breakthrough in the regeneration of new blood vessels in cardiovascular therapy using new nanotechnology, a university associate professor said Thursday.

The new treatment breaks the 10-year bottleneck that traditional vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in heart repair treatment has faced, said Hsieh Ching-ho, an associate professor at the university's Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine.

Traditional VEGF treatment, which is used for generating new blood vessels, is believed to be also applicable to the treatment of ischemic heart disease -- a medical condition characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart. However, it has failed to produce results in nearly 20 clinical trials over the last 10 years, explained Hsieh.

Hsieh made the comments after the research team's paper was published Thursday in the newest edition of Science Translational Medicine, one of the world's leading journals for scientific news, commentary and cutting-edge research.

The university's treatment introduces the use of peptide nanofibers combined with VEGF, a signal protein produced by cells to stimulate the formation of new blood vessels, said Hsieh.

The research team has found that in animal tests, the technique has led to improvement in heart function of as much as 70 percent.

Moreover, the regeneration of microvessels can be elevated by over three folds, and new arteries by over five times, Hsieh added.

In the past, it was believed that myocardial cells become unrepairable and die due to reduced blood flow, but the new technology not only creates a favorable microenvironment for revascularization. It can also reduce the area of ischemia as well as side effects, said Hsieh.

Currently, there are no approved therapies in regenerative medicine for heart failure.

The treatment has not yet entered clinical trials, but the team hopes that in the future, injecting the material into the heart during cardiac catheterization will be able to replace traditional open-heart surgery or be applied to the treatment of other diseases.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang and C.J. Lin)