Skip to Navigation Skip to Page Content

MU, Nanova collaborative effort closing in on heart health breakthrough

Stents on black cloth.

The Nanova stent uses nanocoating of a specific substance in order to avoid the re-narrowing problem, while the coating could also avoid the same clotting problem of the drug-eluting stents. Photo courtesy of Nanova, Inc.

Since its inception, Nanova, Inc. has been renowned for its work in the dental industry. Now, they’re on the verge of a huge breakthrough in another area — cardiovascular health.

Nanova — founded by four researchers, including Hao Li and Qingsong Yu from the MU College of Engineering — recently received additional funding from the National Institutes of Health to continue research on a new form of stent, which is a device used to alleviate arterial blockages in the heart.

Yu, along with the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Douglas Bowles and the MU Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center’s William Fay, recently received an additional $1.5 million NIH grant as a continuation of this collaborative project between Nanova and MU researchers.

There currently are two types of stents in the current medical device market. The most frequently used is what’s called a drug-eluting stent, which opens the narrowed or blocked arteries and is covered with drugs to alleviate the potential problem of arterial re-narrowing. These typically work well, but have potential drawbacks, as the drugs can cause blood clots to form in the arteries, leading to harmful and potentially fatal consequences. These stents are usually paired with blood thinning drugs to prevent this problem.

The other is the bare metal stent, which doesn’t present the same clotting problem but also doesn’t contain the drugs that limit re-narrowing, meaning they may need replacing over time, which can be risky and expensive.

The Nanova stent uses nanocoating of a specific substance in order to avoid the re-narrowing problem, while the coating could also avoid the same clotting problem of the drug-eluting stents.

“The coating is very different,” said Yu, professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Nanova’s vice president. “It has a very strong bonding to the surface.”

After Nanova created the coating, Mark Chen, Nanova co-founder and chief scientist, reached out to MU researchers to begin working on animal testing in preparation for eventual in-human tests. Bowles and Fay had partnered on similar projects related to coronary heart disease in the past, and both were happy to team up with Nanova on this project.

“Mizzou is uniquely positioned in that we have a large animal research facility, which allows us to utilize pigs for clinical trials,” said Bowles, chair of MU’s Department of Biomedical Sciences. “The pig’s heart is of similar size and anatomy of a human.”

The results from testing the stent in healthy pigs were encouraging, and the next step is to finalize the data by studying how the stents perform in pigs with heart disease before applying to begin conducting tests in human subjects. So far, the team’s leading cardiologist is excited by the results and what they could mean for the future of cardiovascular health.

“This process of Nanova’s  coating the stents in a unique way and generating nitric oxide on the surface of the stent has a lot of potential. … One advantage of the Nanova stent would be that we would not need to use this more intensive blood thinner treatment, which I think would have some advantages,” Fay said.