VANCOUVER, B.C. –
Researchers at UBC Okanagan say they have made great strides in their quest to make heart surgery safer and less invasive by creating a synthetic heart valve.
Instead of open heart surgery, patients would have the valve inserted using a catheter, which would give patients aged 75 or older and therefore considered high risk for invasive surgery the chance of prolonging their life with new valves, said Hadi Mahammadi, an assistant professor. in the Heart Valve Performance Laboratory at the university's engineering school.
"For high-risk patients, open-heart surgery is not an option," he said.
Having a transcatheter option will literally be life or death for some elderly heart patients. "It will come to: whether they want to be alive or want to be dead," said Mahammadi.
He and his team have created a valve made entirely from plastic materials and Mahammadi says it looks like the real thing.
"It looks fabric," he said. "It's 90% water. Actually, it's like cloth.
The material and the mechanical device that makes it work will revolutionize heart valve replacement surgery because they are inserted through catheters that require only a small incision as opposed to open heart surgery, he said.
About 10 percent of seniors over age 75 experience the so-called mitral regurgitation – blood leaking back through a valve – that reduces cardiac output and can be life-threatening, said Dylan Goode, a graduate of the laboratory.
And, lastly, Mahammadi predicts this type of surgery, which can be done in 30 minutes, replacing heart surgery for three to four hours for all ages.
Transcatheter-based technology already exists, but the valves are made from animal tissues, usually the heart membrane of a cow.
"It's risky, sometimes it does not work," Mahammadi said. Deployment of animal tissue in humans can cause various complications.
The new valve, made up of a material made up of small components, including "gels, vinyl and cellulose," may be the answer to this problem, and Mahammadi said his laboratory's research is unique.
The device is years from being ready for human surgery. It is being tested in a heart simulator. If it works there, the next step would be to test on pigs. If it succeeds, it will go to human testing, Mahammadi said.
He said the research was peer-reviewed and that the lab is working with researchers at Kelowna General Hospital and Western University in London, Ontario.
The new valve was introduced this month in an article in the Journal of Engineering in Medicine.
Mahammadi said the potential for widespread commercial application is huge, with the valve replacement surgery market totaling $ 8 billion a year in Canada and the US.
He said UBC would probably enter into a partnership with a private company that would handle the commercialization of the venture.
From Susan Lazaruk
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