Researchers at The University of Western Ontario in Canada have discovered a method to stimulate the formation of new blood vessels in tissues that are starved of oxygen.

Dr Geoffrey Pickering and Matthew Frontini at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry have developed a strategy in which fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9, is delivered when new blood vessels are being formed in vulnerable or damaged tissues.

Pickering, who is also a Robarts Research Institute scientist and a professor of medicine (cardiology), biochemistry, and medical biophysics, said that heart attacks and strokes are leading causes of death and disability among Canadians.

“Coronary bypass surgery and stenting are important treatments but are not suitable for many individuals,” he said.

“Because of this, there has been considerable interest in recent years in developing biological strategies that promote the regeneration of a patient’s own blood vessels.”

The work provides a method to overcome the limitations of what is called ‘therapeutic angiogenesis’, which has not yet benefited patients with coronary artery disease, as new blood vessels do not last long and may not have the ability to control the flow of blood into the areas starved of oxygen.

The method is expected to open new ways of looking at vascular regeneration and new possibilities for treating patients with vascular disease.

The findings have been published in Nature Biotechnology.