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Creighton Gets $2.58 Million to Explore Novel Cardiovascular Treatment

Creighton University researcher Devendra K. Agrawal, Ph.D., has received a $2.58 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore a potential new treatment for a problem that plagues many cardiovascular disease patients – re-narrowing of the coronary arteries after angioplasty and the implantation of stents.

The research ultimately could eliminate the need for stents in cardiovascular care.

With angioplasty, a catheter-guided balloon is inserted to open a narrowed coronary artery. A wire mesh stent is typically implanted during the procedure to keep the artery open. While both are commonly used procedures in heart patients, re-narrowing of the coronary arteries is still a serious and well-documented risk, said Agrawal, holder of The Peekie Nash Carpenter Endowed Chair in Medicine.

“Eleven to 18 percent of all patients experience restenosis or a re-narrowing of the artery within three-four years,” noted Agrawal, professor of biomedical sciences, internal medicine, and medical microbiology and immunology.

“This is primarily due to uncontrolled growth of smooth muscle cells at the site of injury due to angioplasty or the placement of stents.”

Following angioplasty and intravascular stenting, Agrawal and his research team will deliver a novel gene involved in the regulation of inflammation at the site of interventional procedure in coronary arteries in a pig model.The goal is to determine whether the administration of this gene can reduce or eliminate the occurrence of restenosis.

“We hope to develop a superior treatment for patients that will eliminate the need for stents and significant improve outcomes for in the treatment coronary artery disease,” Agrawal said.

Study co-investigators are Michael G. Del Core, M.D., chief of interventional cardiology and William J. Hunter III, M.D., professor of pathology, at Creighton University.

Syed Mohiuddin, M.D., cardiologist and chair of Creighton’s Department of Medicine, said Agrawal’s research is important.

“Dr. Agrawal and his colleagues are conducting critically important research that, in time, could become an important preventive cardiovascular treatment,” he said.

Charles Feldman, D.Sc., lecturer of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the teaching hospital for Harvard School of Medicine, said the work of Agrawal and his research team demonstrates the importance of basic research to improved patient care.

“So often, we take a clinical approach to resolving a medical problem. …an artery is too small, so we insert a balloon without understanding the fundamental mechanism causing the problem. Dr. Agrawal’s research is about discovering the underlying mechanism and bringing that discovery to the clinical setting.”

Rowen Zetterman, M.D., dean of Creighton University School of Medicine, said the study is noteworthy for its potential impact on cardiac care as well as the interdisciplinary collaboration.

“Too often, there is a lack of collaboration between basic scientists in the laboratory and clinician researchers who actually treat patients. This collaboration is critical to the Creighton School of Medicine’s goal to translate cutting-edge, scientific medical discovery into clinical applications that benefit real patients.”

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