Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have developed a nanocomposite biomaterial heart valve that could provide an alternative to the animal valves that are currently used as heart valve replacements. Moreover, the nanocomposite valves can be delivered to the heart through a transcatheter, allowing for minimally invasive placement. The new valve is aimed at high-risk patients.
“Existing transcatheter heart valves are made of animal tissues, most often the pericardium membrane from a cow’s heart, and have had only moderate success to date,” explains Hadi Mohammadi, a researcher involved in the study. “The problem is that they face significant implantation risks and can lead to coronary obstruction and acute kidney injury.”
To address this, the UBC researchers developed a new type of valve replacement made using naturally-derived, but not animal, materials. The valves are assembled using numerous components, including vinyl, gels, and cellulose, and can be delivered through a transcatheter, meaning that the chest does not need to be fully opened during valve placement. A small incision is enough to allow the valve to be inserted, making the procedure much less invasive than a full thoracotomy.
The researchers claim that their valve is more durable than currently available options. “Not only is the material important but the design and construction of our valve means that it lowers stress on the valve by as much as 40 per cent compared to valves currently available,” said Dylan Goode, another researcher involved in the study. “It is uniquely manufactured in one continuous form, so it gains strength and flexibility to withstand the circulatory complications that can arise following transplantation.”
At present, the valve is being tested in human heart simulators and in animals to see if it could provide a viable alternative to current valve replacements. If the results of these tests are positive, the valve may proceed to clinical trials.
See a video about the project below:
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