Two patients sitting in chairs wearing face masks with IVs in their arms.
A VCU research team is developing a solution to help prevent infection and complications for patients receiving chemotherapy, dialysis and other treatments through their veins. (Getty Images)

With $1.52M grant, VCU chemistry professor seeks a solution to benefit chemo and dialysis patients

Xuewei Wang and his team are targeting the risk of clotting and infection in a common medical implant in veins.

Share this story

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a $1.52 million four-year grant to a team led by Xuewei Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Humanities and Sciences. The team is developing a solution to help prevent infection and complications for patients receiving chemotherapy, dialysis and other treatments through their veins.

A central venous catheter, also known as a central line, is a medical implant device that allows health care providers to deliver medication into the bloodstream, particularly the large vein that empties into the heart, without the need for many needle sticks into a vein. CVCs are designed to stay in place for weeks or months, and they often are used by people who need long-term medications, fluids or blood transfusions, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy or dialysis.

But CVCs also carry risks of infection and thrombosis, or blood clotting, which can lead to complications and result in longer hospital stays, illness or even death, said Wang, the project’s principal investigator. “The frequent use of antibiotics and anticoagulants to prevent and treat these complications can cause bacterial resistance and adverse side effects, such as bleeding,” he said.

“There is an urgent need for new strategies to reduce infectious and thrombotic complications associated with central venous catheters,” Wang said. “This project aims to address these complications by using catheter lock solutions that release nitric oxide, a natural drug that exerts both antimicrobial and anti-thrombotic activities without causing drug resistance or side effects.”

Wang and his team are developing a catheter lock solution — a liquid solution used to fill the catheter, when not in use, to prevent clotting — that would deliver controlled release of nitric oxide, which Wang says “serves as a natural anti-platelet and antimicrobial agent in the human body.” They also plan for the catheter lock solution they are developing to be inexpensive to produce.

“Success of this project would lead to a new generation of inexpensive lock solutions that will dramatically reduce infectious and thrombotic risks of central venous catheters,” Wang wrote in a summary of the project.

Martin Mangino, Ph.D., a professor and associate chair of the Department of Surgery at the VCU School of Medicine, will serve as the project’s co-investigator.

Wang, who studies drug delivery, medical implants’ use alongside nitric oxide and the development of chemical sensors for health monitoring and diagnosis, has received grants from the VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research and the VCU Commercialization Fund for this research. He is working with VCU TechTransfer and Ventures on patent applications for solutions his team is developing.