Biomedical engineering researchers at Northwestern University have developed nanofibers that have proprieties that mimic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The investigators found their self-engineered VEGF-mimetic nanofilament to have an effect on VEGF receptors and that it promotes proangiogenic behavior in endothelial cells.
The regeneration of blood vessels is of utmost importance, especially in ischemic tissue disease, for example due to a heart attack. VEGF is one of the most potent angiogenic factors, but an obstacle in therapy with the VEGF protein is the inadequate retention in tissues. Maintaining a therapeutic level would require several treatments over time and would thus be more invasive.
So, Samual Stupp and his research team developed a nanostructure in the form of a fiber that displays on its surface a high density of peptides (potentially hundreds of thousands) per fiber. This new biodegradable nanomaterial has a similar effect, but lasts longer than VEGF itself. It has already been tested in a mouse hind-limb ischemia model, in which it increased the tissue perfusion and functional recovery with an immunohistologically proven increase in the density of microcirculation. They published their results as “Supramolecular Nanostructures that Mimic VEGF as a Strategy for Ischemic Tissue Repair.” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
These nanostructures seem like a promising synthetic therapeutic strategy and could be an alternative to VEGF protein-based approaches. There also could be more purposes for nanostructures mimicking proteins, especially in tissue regeneration. The researchers plan to investigate the protein mimic in a heart attack animal model next.