Researchers at UBC Okanagan have created the first nanocomposite biomaterial heart valve that can be inserted without the need to open a chest.
Using a newly developed technique, researchers have been able to build a more durable valve that allows the heart to adapt faster and more easily.
Assistant Professor Hadi Mohammadi runs the Heart Valve Performance Laboratory through the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering. Senior author of the study, he says the new valve developed is an example of a transcatheter heart valve, a promising new branch of cardiology.
These valves are unique because they can be inserted into a patient through small incisions instead of opening the patient's chest – a procedure that is generally safer and much less invasive, according to a UBCO press release.
"Existing transcatheter heart valves are made from animal tissues, most often the pericardium membrane of a cow's heart, and have had only moderate success so far," he says. "The problem is that they face significant risks of implantation and can lead to coronary obstruction and acute kidney injury."
The new valve solves this problem using naturally derived nanocomposites – a material assembled with a variety of very small components – including gels, vinyl and cellulose. The combination of its new material and the non-invasive nature of transcatheter heart valves makes this new design very promising for use in high-risk patients, according to Mohammadi.
"The material is not only important, but the design and construction of our valve means it reduces valve stress by as much as 40% compared to the valves currently available," says Dylan Goode, a HVPL graduate researcher. "It is manufactured exclusively in a continuous form, so it gains strength and flexibility to withstand the circulatory complications that may arise after transplantation."
Working with researchers at Kelowna General Hospital and Western University, the valve will undergo vigorous testing to improve the composition and design of materials. The test will include human heart simulators and in vivo animal studies. If successful, the valve will proceed to the patient's clinical test, the release says.
"This has the potential to become the new standard in heart valve replacement and provide a safer, longer-term solution for many patients."
The new design was highlighted in an article published this month in the Journal of Engineering in Medicine, with financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.