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New research could help millions with heart disease

As many regular readers of our Raleigh blog undoubtedly know, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Coronary heart disease – also referred to as ischemic heart disease – includes serious problems caused by narrowed arteries, which then results in less blood and oxygen getting to the heart muscle.

Coronary heart disease affects approximately 15 million Americans. Common symptoms are chest pain and difficulty breathing, as well as pain, numbness and weakness in arms, hands, legs and feet due to inadequate blood flow. Ultimately, heart disease can lead to a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

The disease can be deadly – killing about 2,100 Americans each and every day – and it can also be severely disabling.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded researchers a $2 million grant to develop an implant patch that would release protein drugs to improve treatments of coronary heart disease.

Biomedical engineering Professor Yong Wang will help lead the research team. He says that initial therapy after a heart attack “is to restore blood delivery to tissues as quickly as possible.” In that way, doctors “can salvage as much of the endangered heart muscle as possible.”

That’s currently done with medical and mechanical means such as injections of clot-dissolving drugs, angioplasty, coronary artery bypass surgery – and combinations of these treatments.

The protein-releasing implant patch would improve these methods of treating coronary heart disease by spurring growth of new blood vessels. The Penn State professor says the new vessels would be “in the location where original blood vessels are blocked so that blood can flow through new vessels.”

Wang adds that development of the patch “holds great potential to open a new and better avenue of treatment for the millions stricken with pulmonary heart disease.”

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