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A stent that dissolves in the body...

21-May-2011 (Sat) Weekend TODAY

By Sabrina Chan

SINGAPORE - Patients who suffer from coronary artery disease are usually implanted with drug-coated metal stents, but for the first time in Singapore, two heart disease patients have been successfully treated with a bio-resorbable stent which eventually dissolves and is absorbed into the body.

Mdm Tan Soon Mui, a patient who has undergone the procedure.

This ground-breaking technology is on clinical trial at the National University Heart Centre and helps restore the artery to its normal functional state, as no material is left in the long-term. It could also bring about a lower rate of a blood clot formation, reducing the potential of a heart attack.

Director of the cardiac department at the National University Heart Centre, Tan Huay Cheem, said: "The device includes no material that are permanently left within the heart artery wall. It also does not provoke any chronic inflammatory process which may potentially cause problems such as heart attack in later times."

The stent - a tube-like scaffold device - is inserted into the constricted artery and expanded by pumping air into a small balloon inside the device. Blood flow is restored as the vessel is kept open by the scaffold, which is eventually dissolved by the body.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 15 people in Singapore die from cardiovascular disease every day. This technology could improve the quality of life for those suffering from coronary artery disease.

Dr Tan said he hoped the new biodegradable stent would have a re-narrowing rate - requiring a repeat procedure - close to that of the current drug-coated stent, which is less than 5 per cent.

About 1,000 patients have been admitted into the global clinical trial and are undergoing treatment over the last year and the device has been approved for use in Europe (Corrected at 03:30 PM May 23, 2011). If the trial goes well, it could be commercially available here within the next two years.