Alveolus, a medical device biotechnology company, is developing and marketing a next-generation stent for use in the lungs by working with Lutz Frietag, an internationally recognized pulmonologist.

While stents have become widely used as part of treatments for the heart, Charlotte-based Alveolus and Frietag are creating a stent especially for pulmonary applications. The new Alveolus stent will open passageways blocked due to tumor growth and benign conditions like strictures, stenoses or Malacia, the company says. With the help of the Alveolus Stent Technology System, patients with these conditions or diseases will breathe more freely.

Frietag is an interventional pulmonologist at Lungenklinik in Hemer, Germany, one of the country’s largest pulmonary hospitals. He is also a visiting professor at Harvard Medical School and an associate professor of pulmonary medicine at the University of Essen.

“Existing stent technology does not adequately address the needs and requirements of physicians who are treating patients with bronchial or tracheal cancer, or a host of other pulmonary illnesses,” Frietag said at the recent American Thoracic Society conference in Atlanta. “The new stent will be self-expanding, providing maximum radial force to prevent it from moving or being easily dislodged. Design improvements will prevent some of the complications associated with stent placement in the past.”

Alveolus’ five-member physician advisory board met recently to review prototypes for the pulmonary stent. The next step is for the product to be subject to bench testing in order to provide data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Typically, this approval process takes approximately 90 days. The product is scheduled to be available to the U.S. and other markets by 2003.