Zoldan Receives R01 to Develop Hydrogels for Personalized Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment

March 24, 2022

Associate Professor Janet Zoldan has received a $2.26 million R01 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to develop innovative hydrogel systems that will facilitate vessel growth to treat peripheral artery disease.

janet zoldan1000667
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition where narrowing of arteries reduces blood flow to limbs. It is the third most common cause of cardiovascular morbidity worldwide and is present in 20 percent of the population over the age of 65. If left untreated, PAD can progress to critical limb ischemia, resulting in tissue necrosis and eventual amputation.

One effective therapeutic strategy to prevent critical limb ischemia and treat PAD is vasculogenesis, the process of creating new vessels from progenitor cells. Although, this process only occurs during embryonic development, it may be replicated in adults by delivering vascular progenitor cells derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). These are powerful patient-derived stem cells that Zoldan’s research employs frequently.

One challenge in creating new vessels from hiPSC-derived vascular progenitor cells is that the optimal conditions for these cells’ engraftment with the host vasculature are unclear, in part due to the lack of biomaterial scaffolds that direct the self-assembly of these cells into vascular networks.

Zoldan and her team are developing a personalized tissue-engineered neovascularization strategy as a clinically viable treatment for PAD. Their approach is based on guiding vessel network formation through the engineering of dynamic hydrogels that mimic the multivariate cues of the native extracellular matrix surrounding the vascular tissue and has the potential to identify the underlying mechanisms behind the biological events occurring during vasculogenesis.

Ultimately their work will improve patient’s vascular health and aid in cardiovascular disease modeling.