Alternatives to “Triple-A” Surgery

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA or “triple-A”) is a potentially fatal condition caused by a ballooning of part of the wall of the body’s major blood vessels. AAAs affect nearly 10% of U.S. seniors, with men over 60 and smokers at high risk.  As in a tire wall, this condition may lead to a catastrophic explosion (rupture).  Surgery is the usual treatment to repair a potential rupture area as no drugs exist to prevent this condition. AAAs develop from an initial subtle injury to the blood vessel; as they progress the protein elastin, which allows blood vessels to expand and contract with normal blood flow, is lost, causing reduced aortic flexibility.

The Ramamurthi team focuses on identifying molecules that can rebuild elastin and the cells that can make elastin.  We are trying to prod adult stem cells, obtained from skin samples of triple-A patients, to transform into blood vessel cells that can be used to restore elastin. We are engineering microscopic devices called nanoparticles to ensure predictable release of elastin-preserving or elastin-restoring drugs.  This approach is much more precise than giving drugs system-wide by mouth or injection.  We think these “nanotherapy” approaches will help speed the development of new, nonsurgical treatments that could stabilize or reverse existing AAAs to a healthy state and provide an option for high-risk elderly patients who are poor candidates for surgery.

Summary: Dr. Ramamurthi’s team is developing new drug- and cell-based approaches to restoring cells and tissues for nonsurgical treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms.

See also: Ramamurthi Lab