Angiogenesis is the process of blood vessel sprouting from a pre-formed vessel. The control of angiogenesis is key in any clinical treatment aiming for tissue regeneration. It is widely advocated that angiogenesis needs to be stimulated in ischemic conditions such as affecting the heart muscle and lower limbs and where absent can lead to heart attack and amputations. Contrariwise, angiogenesis needs to be prevented in the repair of cartilage where the invasion of blood vessel leads to the formation of fibrocartilage. Likewise, anti-angiogenic treatments can be used to treat tumoural masses and eye retinopathy.
Since 2008, the BrightSTAR team has been involved in a number of EC FP7 projects (collaborative projects: Disc Regeneration and Magister; Marie-Curie ITN: AngioMat) where the team has played a key role in developing either nano-structured biomaterials able to mimic structural and biochemical cues relevant to angiogenesis or hyperbranched aptamers able either to deliver or to block growth factors such as Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that play a key role in the process of blood vessel sprouting. Uniquely, in the context of the Magister project, the delivery of VEGF through these biomaterials has been achieved through their coupling to a magnetic field able to produce highly tuned concentration gradients.