Scarring is a natural part of any healing process but scar formation within blood vessels can be deadly.

To prevent scarring and the dangerous damage that follows, researchers writing in ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering discuss development of a new biodegradable material with built-in vitamin A, which has been shown to reduce scarring in blood vessels. This soft elastic material can be used to treat injured vessels or be used to make medical devices, such as stents and prosthetic vascular grafts, to give them intrinsic healing properties. Early tests have shown that the material can reduce cell migration -- a major contributor to the scarring process -- by 57 percent.

Previously, they have integrated vitamin C into the structure of a material used to grow tissues and improve the function of vascular grafts. He and his colleagues previously demonstrated that locally applied vitamin A can significantly inhibit scarring in blood vessels. In the new work, vitamin A is integrated into the material, harnessing the beneficial properties of vitamin A and allowing for its broader application in medical devices.

The original antioxidant material is based on citric-acid and has antioxidant properties. It has groups that react with other acids. By using an acid form of vitamin A, we linked it directly to the material. The new material brings two advantages. Its antioxidant component can reduce the oxidative stress that leads to chronic inflammation. And the vitamin A, which is released as the material degrades, can prevent or reduce scarring.

While the previous material could be used in open-heart surgery, the new version can be used for all endovascular procedures. It can potentially also be used outside the body, such as for wound-healing bandages for diabetic patients. Because the new material releases vitamin A as it degrades, the potential for toxic build up is much lower. They can also control how quickly the material degrades -- and thus releases the vitamin A -- depending on how the material is produced in the laboratory.

Next, the team plans to explore the material's potential for additional applications. Vitamin A is already widely known for its anti-aging properties, and topical antioxidants can be used to combat cell damage or improve wound healing. 

Source: Northwestern University