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May 16, 2010 -- 2:30pm EDT

Stent Inventor's New Ideas
Julio Palmaz, MDStent pioneer Dr. Julio Palmaz was in the news this week regarding a $3 million investment made in his company Palmaz Scientific by the State of Texas. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the state's Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) investments "are designed to help start-up companies get their technology out of the lab and into the marketplace. The investments also give the state an equity position in the start-ups."

Dr. Palmaz developed his revolutionary balloon-expandable coronary stent while a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHSC) in San Antonio back in the late '80s, along with Dr. Richard Schatz, and the university has since made millions in royalties from his invention.

In the article, Steve Solomon, CEO of Palmaz Scientific, states that his company "will use a portion of the money to help secure approval in the European market of its Sesame stent, which has a special microscopic mesh coating that helps reduce the effect of impurities in the metal tube. The state funds also will be devoted to buying equipment and hiring engineers to spur the development of next-generation stents."

Società Italiana di Cardiologia InvasivaI had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Dr. Palmaz this past fall at the 30th Annual GISE Meeting (SocietÓ Italiana di Cardiologia Invasiva) in Bologna and his thoughts on making the stent more effective are most interesting. He feels quite strongly that drug-coated stents have a built-in problem. Electron microscopic images show small fractures in the coating, which he believes can lead to increased electrolytic reactions between the metal and elements in the blood and provide a possible mechanism for accelerated tissue growth and restenosis.

His company's technology utilizes nanotechnology and physical vapor deposition (PVD) to yield material of higher purity, lower profile and a micro-grooved flow surface so that the stent can have an all metal micromesh covering only 5 microns thick (about the size of a blood cell) with openings less than 100 microns. The concept is that this covering can act as a screen to prevent migration of the stent struts into the plaque, which can cause inflammation and embolization of the plaque, and that it can promote healing, resulting in reduced restenosis without having to subject the patient to long-term dual antiplatelet therapy or the risk of late stent thrombosis.

These ideas are, of course, controversial -- especially in the current world of drug-eluting polymers and bioabsorbable stents -- but controversy is nothing new for Dr. Palmaz.

More information about this technology can be found at Palmaz Scientific's web site.

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