Local drug delivery by coronary stents is of current research interest. Organ culture of human vascular tissue is a model of intimal hyperplasia. We report an ex vivo organ culture model of stented vessels. This allows stent–artery interactions to be studied in living tissue. The recognized anti-restenosis agent paclitaxel was chosen to test the organ culture model. Mammary artery specimens were cultured ‘closed’ (i.e. without opening them flat) for 72h. Phosphocholine-coated stents, half of them loaded with the anti-restenosis drug paclitaxel, were implanted. The absorption and elution characteristics of paclitaxel were established. Artery tissue remained viable at 72h when cultured closed, despite stent implantation. Specimens developed smooth muscle cell proliferation. The stents absorbed up to 127±29μg of paclitaxel, with a biphasic elution curve. A mean of 13% of the absorbed paclitaxel remained after a 24h perfusion. In mammary artery, these paclitaxel stents reduced or abolished smooth muscle cell proliferation compared with controls. This model allows the effects of stenting on human arterial tissue to be studied for at least 72h, long enough to demonstrate effects on smooth muscle cell proliferation. Phosphocholine-coated stents absorb adequate doses of paclitaxel, which is eluted gradually, inhibiting muscle cell proliferation. Such an organ culture model of stented mammary artery will provide useful data in addition to that from animal or cell culture models of drug-eluting stents.

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