Advancements in Stents

Welcome! After a year of saying I would create my own website, I have finally done it! I wanted to start my own personal site because I wanted to talk about what interests me the most: life-altering and cutting edge advancements in the biomedical field (don’t worry, these will not read as scientific papers), as well as innovative and disruptive products in technology.  My inspiration to start my blog came from my wonderful and supportive girlfriend, Alessa. Go follow her blog at What Are You Going To Have

For my first post, I’m going back in time and talk about stents, medical devices I researched for my senior project / thesis at Cal Poly. Stents are small, expandable tubes that treat narrowed arteries in the body. In people with coronary heart disease caused by the buildup of plaque, stents can help with the following: open narrowed arteries, reduce chest pain, and help treat heart attacks.

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-10-15-27-pm

Stent being deployed into the coronary artery, expanding the balloon and stent, and pushing the plaque against the artery wall. This opens the artery for blood flow.

My stent research was on coronary stent implementation for diabetic patients. In my experiments, I simulated a diabetic patient’s heart using blood vessel mimics (BVMs). To make this as humanistic as possible, I used fluids that contained endothelial cells with similar viscosity to blood, a pump with comparable pressure to the heart, and placed it in an incubator the same temperature as a human body. As this was done back in 2011-12, biodegradable / bioabsorbable stents were not yet available. So we resorted to the old- fashioned bare metal stents.  

Since diabetic patients have a higher risk of restonsis (re-narrowing of the artery), I focused a lot of my research on drug-eluting stents. Depending on the type of drug that coats the stent, these stents help prevent clots for forming and help with prevention of plaque buildup on the stent itself. It has been a few years since I performed this initial research, and looking at new advancements in stents, there have been some ground-breaking discoveries. 

Biodegradable stents, once they degrade, leave behind only the healed artery or vessel. Because the stent is no longer there, the risk of thrombosis is unlikely (one of the previous concerns around bare metal stents). This would have been way cooler to study, and with the accepted use of biodegradable stents, why even bother with the classic bare metal stent? However, as with everything, biodegradable stents have their limitations. Polymeric biodegradable stents lack strength, which can result in early recoil post implantation. Metal biodegradable stents have the risk of corrosion and increased toxicity. 

Where am I going with this…? Stents are very interesting and have saved countless of lives, but what if there was a way to prevent clotting, without thrombosis? I am interested in both bio and technology, and thought it would be cool if I came up with an innovative idea to help monitor blood flow after stents are implanted. With the explosion of Internet of Things (IoT), the world is becoming more connected. My initial thought was to attach sensor to the stents in order to view the blood flow on a mobile device. The phone would send an alert when there has been some build-up, thus catching the build-up early enough without having to go to the hospital to run tests. Instead, the patient could let his/her doctor know and take appropriate measure – ultimately this could help with  preventing restonsis. Mainly, I thought it would be really cool to watch one’s blood flow on their mobile device. 

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-10-05-46-pm

Sensors attached intravenously that transmits information on blood flow, heartbeat, and blood flow volume.

But with the introduction of biodegradable stents to the market, this idea seems to be less valuable. So maybe, rather than adding sensor to the stents, perhaps we could think about adding sensors throughout the patient body to monitor blood flow. This could potentially be used as an early detection mechanism to prevent blood clots, coronary artery disease, or heart attacks.  

Enjoy! This is my first blog post ever…go easy on me.