Angioplasty with stenting is a mainstay of coronary artery disease treatment, with an estimated two million patients receiving this surgery each year. Angioplasty, which involves inserting a balloon into a partially blocked artery with a catheter, is often accompanied with stenting, where a metal mesh tube is inserted into the affected artery to provide structural support and prevent it from narrowing.  

But for the 10% of patients with significant blockages, bypass surgery is the only option, with many patients receiving synthetic vascular grafts that reroute the blood around the blocked artery. While synthetic biomaterial vascular grafts perform well in large-diameter applications, they are unsuitable for small-diameter applications due to their inability to support the growth of endothelial cells (cells that line blood vessels) while maintaining normal blood flow.  

Excitingly, UNSW researchers have recently identified novel biomaterials that incorporate molecules found in the extracellular matrix. The extracellular matrix is a complex network of proteins, polysaccharides and minerals that provide structural and signalling cues to cells. The use of these materials in place of synthetic grafts provides a promising alternative, as extracellular matrix molecules are abundant in arterials walls and can regulate biological processes in vascular tissues. This new development has the potential to revolutionise our approach to vascular bypass surgery.  

Read the full review here.