The formation of new blood vessels is both vital and rather complicated. In our bodies, it requires the migration, growth, and differentiation of the cells that line the inside walls of blood vessels themselves. Our body regulates this process, named angiogenesis, so that too many vessels aren’t manufactured, which can give cancer a nasty edge.
Sometimes, however, we need more blood vessels than our bodies are able to create themselves, particularly when it comes to wound healing.
Marvelously, a team at Texas A&M University has announced that they’ve made progress with a new technique to encourage the development of blood vessels. As explained in a new Advanced Biosystems paper, it’s all thanks to what amounts to clever, essentially invisible community organizers.
Using nanoscopic particles of silica material, or “two-dimensional clay”, the team found that they cause angiogenesis to step up a gear, but not to an extreme point. This creates new blood vessels using the body’s own processes and resources without losing control of the procedure.
Some members of the team have recently worked on something very similar that serves as a companion piece, or perhaps a prequel, to the current paper: Proof-of-concept injectable bandages, laced with the same types of nanosilicates, proved to be pretty effective when used on layers of cells in isolated laboratory experiments.
In the case of these hydrogel-based bandages, which can easily be placed inside wounds, their gelatinous structure not only mimic the scaffolding between cells, but the silicates appear to encourage plasma protein and platelets to agglomerate on the cellular surfaces, which quickly initiates potentially life-saving clotting.
The earlier study mentions vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs), proteins that regulate angiogenesis. It appears that the combination of said materials encouraged the release of these VEGF proteins, which amped up angiogenesis and accelerated wound healing.
As emphasized in this new paper, however, it’s not all about uncontrollable angiogenesis. Running additional in vitro laboratory experiments using these materials, the team confirmed that these nanoparticles act like gatekeepers.
Thanks to their high surface areas and electrochemical properties, they allow just the right about of blood vessel growth factors – or proangiogenic molecules – through. This allows for a sensible pace of angiogenesis without leading to the appearance of physical abnormalities.
Artificial blood vessels have also been made in the lab, which may prove to be particularly important for the development of 3D transplantable organs – itself a nascent, if promising, field of research. This type of tech, however, is more applicable to emergency medical help, say for those wounded in conflict zones.
Other methods involve using injections of tiny sponges to stop hemorrhaging, whereas this tech uses nanotech to accelerate wound healing. Only time will tell before we see which, if any, replaces standard gauze bandages in the future.