In-stent restenosis is a serious concern for patients treated through the stenting procedure, although this can be solved using drug-eluting stents and/or drug-eluting balloon catheters. However, the chemical agents released from the drug-eluting layer for inhibiting smooth muscle cell (SMC) migration are inevitably associated with damage to vascular endothelial cell (ECs). The present in vitro study used a distinct strategy, in which a smart gene (phEGR1-PKCδ, an engineered plasmid consists of an SMC-specific promoter (human early growth response 1, hEGR1 promoter) ligated with a gene encoding apoptosis-inducing protein (protein kinase C-delta, PKCδ) was incorporated into a novel gene vehicle (Au cluster-incorporated polyethylenimine/carboxymethyl hexanoyl chitosan, PEI-Au/CHC) to form the PEI-Au/CHC/phEGR1-PKCδ complex, which was proposed for the selective inhibition of SMC proliferation. It was found that the cell viability of SMCs receiving the PEI-Au/CHC/phEGR1-PKCδ complex under simulated inflammation conditions was significantly lower than that of the ECs receiving the same treatment. In addition, the PEI-Au/CHC/phEGR1-PKCδ complex did not demonstrate an inhibitory effect on EC proliferation and migration under simulated inflammation conditions. Finally, the PEI-Au/CHC/phEGR1-PKCδ complexes coated onto a balloon catheter used in percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) could be transferred to both the ECs and the SMC layer of Sprague Dawley (SD) rat aortas ex vivo. These preliminary in vitro results suggest that the newly developed approach proposed in the present study might be a potential treatment for reducing the incidence rate of in-stent restenosis and late thrombosis in the future.
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