More durable heart valve
By using a newly developed technique, UBC researchers were able to build a more durable valve that enables the heart to adapt faster and more seamlessly after a transplant.
Credit: UBCO

More durable heart valve

A new valve design by University of British Columbia researchers replaces animal tissue with a newly developed nanocomposite.

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Developed to reduce or eliminate complications related to heart transplants, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) created the first-ever nanocomposite biomaterial heart-valve. Using a newly developed technique, researchers were able to build a more durable valve, enabling the heart to adapt faster and more seamlessly after transplants.

Assistant Professor Hadi Mohammadi runs the Heart Valve Performance Laboratory (HVPL) through UBC Okanagan's School of Engineering, and says the newly developed valve 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 rather than opening a patient's chest.

"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," Mohammadi explains. "The problem is that they face significant implantation risks and can lead to coronary obstruction and acute kidney injury."

The new valve solves that problem by using naturally derived nanocomposites – a material assembled with a variety of very small components – including gels, vinyl, and cellulose. According to Mohammadi , the combination of the naturally derived nanocomposites with the non-invasive nature of transcatheter heart valves makes this new design very promising for use with high-risk patients.

"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% compared to valves currently available," says Dylan Goode, a graduate researcher at the HVPL. "It is uniquely manufactured in one continuous form, so it gains strength and flexibility to withstand the circulatory complications that can arise following transplantation."

(Video) Researchers at UBCO have created the first-ever nanocomposite biomaterial heart-valve developed to reduce or eliminate complications related to heart transplants. Credit: UBCO

Working with researchers from Kelowna General Hospital and Western University, the valve will now undergo vigorous testing to perfect its material composition and design. The testing will include human heart simulators and large animal in-vivo studies. If successful, the valve will then proceed to clinical patient testing.

"This has the potential to become the new standard in heart valve replacement and to provide a safer, longer-term solution for many patients."

The new design was highlighted in a paper published this month in the Journal of Engineering in Medicine with financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.