Over 50.000 persons are newly diagnosed with lung cancer in Germany yearly. In the course of this disease, an airway constriction, so called stenosis, occur frequently. If the tumor is inoperable, the patient is treated with palliative care to improve quality of life for the patient and reduce the number of hospitalization.
To relieve the constriction, a small tube, a stent, is inserted in the airway, which presses the tumor to the outside. So far, silicone stents or covered metal braids are used as stents. Unfortunately, both of them have a severe drawback: They completely cover the airway mucosa and thereby inhibit mucus transportation out of the lungs. Therefore, mucus accumulates below the stent and complicates or even blocks breathing.
The bioybrid PulmoStent
To overcome this hurdle in current treatment strategies, we are developing a biohybrid stent, PulmoStent, for treatment of airway stenoses. The concept is based on the combination of stent technologies with the principles of tissue engineering. The PulmoStent is a multi-layered structure with a braided metal stent as back bone, a mechanical separating layer of poly-urethane blocking ingrowth of tumor tissue and an artificial but living mucosa on the inner side, which provides mucus transportation. Optionally, therapeutics can be incorporated in the separating layer, to locally suppress the tumor.
The PulmoStent is a step beyond the state-of-the-art, evolving from a passive to a viable, functional and active implant tailored to the patient. The combination of different biomaterials for the bio-functionalization of the stent will lead to an improved performance of endobronchial stents and thereby to longer durability of the implant. The novel PulmoStent can improve the patients’ quality of life and increase their life expectancy. It combines local tumor suppression, with reduced mucus retention, and herewith reduces the risk of life-threatening pneumonia.
The research on this topic received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013, NMP3-SL-2012-280915) from 2012 to 2015 and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research within the program VIP+, validation of technological and social innovation potential of scientific research, 03VP03290.