David Vorp, PhDBy Cristina D’Imperio

Click chemistry has been described by Nobel-winning scientists as a way of “snapping molecules together […] sort of like a molecular Lego¾ a group on one molecule specifically attaches to a group on another molecule.” This “snapping together” of molecules can be used to devise therapies to target disease more precisely, as well as to explore cells, map DNA, and create synthetic materials.

David Vorp, PhD (pictured), McGowan affiliated faculty and Associate Dean for Research at the Swanson School of Engineering, alongside researchers from Carnegie Mellon’s Bioengineering Department and Vanderbilt’s Department of Vascular Surgery, was recently granted the Collaborative Sciences Award from the American Heart Association (AHA) for research that utilizes click chemistry.

Dr. Vorp and collaborators were awarded $750,000 from the AHA, allocated over three years, for their use of click chemistry to innovate a minimally invasive treatment for previously untreatable abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA).

Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) are the 15th leading cause of death in the U.S.¾every year, more than 200,000 people are diagnosed with an AAA. Current treatments for an AAA differ depending on the size of the aneurysm. For example, small aneurysms of less than 5 cm. in diameter are monitored every 6 to 12 months. Larger aneurysms frequently require the placement of a prosthetic graft, a hospital stay of four to ten days, and a recovery time of up to three months. Many times, people who are diagnosed early with a small aneurysm must wait for it to get worse before receiving treatment.

Dr. Vorp and his team will collaborate with Carnegie Mellon and Vanderbilt universities on a project tiled, “Clickable Extracellular Vesicles for Aneurysm Stabilization” that aims to provide early treatment for an AAA. Using click chemistry, the researchers will bind extracellular vesicles to a material for minimally invasive delivery to the aneurysm wall.

Achieving this goal will enable patients with an AAA to be treated sooner, reducing the risks involved with waiting for aneurysms to reach a certain size, invasive surgery, and prolonged recovery times.