Craig Kent, MD, and Lian-Wang Guo, PhD, Target Prevention of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

April 24, 2024 by

Craig Kent, MD (left), Lian-Wang Guo, PhD

Craig Kent, MD (left), Lian-Wang Guo, PhD

A new $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will support research led by Craig Kent, MD, and Lian-Wang Guo, PhD, in their efforts to tackle the prevention of abdominal aortic aneurysms — a potentially fatal condition affecting the body’s largest blood vessels.

Researchers Craig Kent, MD, chief executive officer of UVA Health, executive vice president for health affairs, and professor of surgery, and Lian-Wang Guo, PhD, professor of surgery, have partnered with Shaoqin Gong, PhD, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to investigate novel therapeutic approaches for treating this disease.

The team has pinpointed PERK, a signaling protein central to the cellular stress response, as a potential target for intervention against aortic aneurysms. Aberrant activation of PERK has been implicated in the progression of this condition. To counteract this, the team aims to uncover the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the development of aneurysms, and devise a precise drug delivery system so that treatments can be delivered to the aneurysm site.

Their innovative approach involves the development of injectable, bio-camouflaged nanoclusters, likened to a cluster bomb. “Detonated” at the disease site, these nanoclusters disperse smaller drug-loaded nanoparticles, facilitating efficient penetration into the aneurysmal tissue. This precision-targeting strategy holds potential for minimizing systemic side effects, while maximizing therapeutic efficacy of aneurysm treatments — a significant advancement in the pursuit of the first safe and effective medicinal treatment for this disease.

Additional researchers who played a major part in developing this project include Bowen Wang, PhD, a co-investigator at Northwestern University; Nisakorn Yodsanit, PhD, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Takuro Shirasu, MD, PhD, and Yitao Huang, PhD, at the University of Virginia.

Collaborators on the project include Jianjie Ma, PhD, Chengli Shen, MD, PhD, Gary Owens, PhD, and Mete Civelek, PhD, at the University of Virginia and Morgan Salmon, PhD, at the University of Michigan.

A provisional patent application has been made possible and filed by the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group.

Filed Under: Research