Researchers at The University of Western Ontario have discovered a strategy for stimulating the formation of highly functional new blood vessels in tissues that are starved of oxygen. Dr. Geoffrey Pickering and Matthew Frontini at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry developed a strategy in which a biological factor, called fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9), is delivered at the same time that the body is making its own effort at forming new blood vessels in vulnerable or damaged tissue. The result is that an otherwise unsuccessful attempt at regenerating a blood supply becomes a successful one. Their findings were published online in Nature Biotechnology on April 17, 2011. "Heart attacks and strokes are leading causes of death and disability among Canadians. Coronary bypass surgery and stenting are important treatments but are not suitable for many individuals," explains Dr. Pickering, a professor of Medicine (Cardiology), Biochemistry, and Medical Biophysics, and a scientist at the Robarts Research Institute. "Because of this, there has been considerable interest in recent years in developing biological strategies that promote the regeneration of a patient's own blood vessels." This potential treatment has been termed 'therapeutic angiogenesis'. "Unfortunately and despite considerable investigation, therapeutic angiogenesis has not as yet been found to be beneficial to patients with coronary artery disease. It appears that new blood vessels that form using approaches to date do not last long, and may not have the ability to control the flow of blood into the areas starved of oxygen." The work of Dr. Pickering and collaborators provides a method to overcome these limitations.
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