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Regenerating Tissues with Sustained Growth Factor Delivery

Biomaterial releasing VEGF and IGF-1 stimulates local repair and regrowth of nerves, muscles, and blood vessels

Regenerating Tissues with Sustained Growth Factor Delivery
The components of the VEGF/IGF hydrogel can be easily manufactured as “kits” that can be purchased by users in the regenerative medicine field, hospitals, private practices, etc. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Millions of people worldwide suffer from traumatic injuries or health conditions that cause damage to soft tissues including nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. The body can heal some of that damage, but more serious cases like the severing of a nerve or sustained oxygen deprivation can lead to permanent loss of movement or sensation in a limb, or even require amputation.

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are naturally occurring biomolecules in the body that are known to help enhance tissue regrowth after injury or chronic disease. However, delivering these growth factors via blood vessel injection or other standard methods has suffered from low efficacy in tissue regeneration, a very short duration of action, and toxicity that has prevented them from being developed into effective regenerative treatments. Alternatives such as muscle transplantation procedures exist, but they often have poor re-innervation results, and a better option is needed.

This video describes how an alginate hydrogel can be used to trigger the formation of new blood vessels at an ischemic site in the body. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

A new technology patented by the Wyss Institute solves this problem by loading both VEGF and IGF-1 into a biocompatible hydrogel “scaffold” that is injected under the skin at the site of injury. The scaffold allows for a sustained, non-toxic local release of these growth factors, resulting in impressive repair of injured tissues. In multiple preclinical models, the co-delivery of both VEGF and IGF-1 demonstrated a prolonged ability to restore muscular function and reverse nerve damage. Blood perfusion recovered to 80-90% while muscle strength recovered to pre-injury levels after a few weeks.

The promise of growth factors like VEGF and IGF-1 has been largely unrealized due to their systemic toxicity and poor duration of action with bolus injection. The fact that we can now deliver an effective, non-toxic dose of these molecules directly to target sites could finally break the logjam and allow the creation of truly revolutionary regenerative medicines.

David Mooney

Potential applications

This technology has the potential to enable muscle, nerve, and vascular regeneration in numerous settings, including:

  • Traumatic physical injury
  • Ischemic injury
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Orthopedic surgery recovery
  • Plastic surgery recovery
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathy

This technology is covered by US patents 9610328 and 9693954 with additional pending applications, and is available for licensing.

To obtain additional information or to learn more about our intellectual property portfolio or licensing opportunities, please contact us.

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