Stanford researchers discover drug to make stents safer

EMBED </>More Videos

For thousands of heart patients a small tube-like device called a stent can be a real life saver, but in rare cases it can actually trigger a life-threatening episode.

Researchers at Stanford believe there's a way to make stents much safer.

Stuart Berman is as an avid cyclist in Palo Alto and has kept himself in top shape, but eight years ago he was at the YMCA when he suffered a heart attack. "Fortunately one of the people at the Y decided to call the paramedics," he said.

Doctors placed a stent to re-open his blocked artery in a catheter-based procedure. It was coated with a drug to help prevent the mesh device itself from causing damage to the blood vessel walls. All seemed well, until a year and a half ago when Berman suffered a second episode. "The second heart attack, the blockage occurred right where the first stent is," he said.

Stents are implanted in thousands of cardiac patients a year, many of whom must also take blood thinners as insurance against possible blood clots. But now, researchers at Stanford are on the trail of a more effective drug that could make stents safer.

"We wanted to look for a better drug, a more specific drug that would hopefully would not damage the lining of the blood vessel," Euan Ashley, M.D., said.

Ashley and his team decided to unleash the power of big data, searching through large-scale genetic studies to isolate a potential drug target and maybe even an existing compound that would work. But instead of pouring through decades of medical literature, they programmed powerful computers to do it. "So we sent our computer algorithm into the literature to look for genes," he said.

That data search finally hit pay-dirt with a gene known to play a role in tumor development that also seemed active in stent disease.

Their research also revealed an inexpensive cancer drug that could target it. "It just would be impossible to do some of these things. The computer can read the whole of medical literature in a very short period of time and analyze it for us," Ashley said.

The Stanford team believes with further research the drug could not only make stents safer, but could possibly free patients from the need for blood thinners.

Berman believes the new era of big data could be lifesaving.

"And they're really trying to do everything they can to make sure that people who have stents don't have second heart attacks," Berman said.

Written and produced by Tim Didion
Related Topics:
healthheart diseasedoctorsresearchmedicalsurgeryblood clothospitalStanford UniversityPalo Alto
(Copyright ©2018 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)