UNC Lineberger’s Andrew Z. Wang, MD, and his collaborators were awarded a $1.5 million, four-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to study the use of nanoparticles to prevent a complication of surgery.

In addition to Wang, Melina R. Kibbe, MD, the Colin G. Thomas Jr. Distinguished Professor and Chair of the UNC School of Medicine Department of Surgery, is a co-investigator.

The researchers will investigate a method of preventing “post-surgical adhesions,” which are bands of tissue that can form after surgery between the abdominal tissue and organs. This can cause the normally slippery internal tissues and organs to stick together. These bands can twist and pull the large or small intestines, leading to blockages, and in females, they can lead to infertility.

“We believe our technology can help address a major health care need,” Wang said.

The grant will allow for preclinical studies of a technology developed in Wang’s laboratory to form a biologically-targeted barrier at sites of tissue of injury to prevention adhesion formation. Their approach uses nanoparticles they engineered to bind at the tissue site, and these are joined by a second nanoparticle that will bind with the first to form a barrier.

“This barrier will function like the body’s normal cell barrier and prevent adhesion formation,” Wang said. “It allows the normal healing process to take place and the artificial barrier will degrade over a few weeks and normal cells will grow into the space.”