Lab-grown heart valve could revolutionize cardiothoracic surgery among children

Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons (Ireland) create heart valve capable of long-term function and adapting to the growing body, with potential for pediatric use.

Mar 02, 2016

Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland made a major breakthrough in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery by creating a heart valve capable of long-term function and adapting to the growing body.

Due to the natural growth of their hearts over time children will often undergo multiple open heart surgeries to fit new valves. Approximately 20% of people requiring heart valve replacement each year are children.

“We have been working on the project for five years. We are now at a stage where we have a functioning valve,” Fergal O’Brien (Royal College of Surgeons) explained. “Up to now, the problem with tissue engineered heart valves developed in the laboratory is that they did not shut properly.”

The valve was constructed from a biomaterial consisting of collagen and fibrin, proteins that degrade over time and are replaced by natural tissue from the host’s body. “What we have done is worked really, really hard to find a way to control the rate at which the implant degrades,” O’Brien added.

To date, the valve has been tested in a bio-reactor that replicates conditions of a heart and animal testing is scheduled to begin. The team hope to start human trials in 2–5 years.

“As a research group we are very active in the biomedical area — we have two bone and cartilage repair technologies going into patients this year,” concluded O’Brien.

– Written by Daphne Boulicault



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