Image of 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: UBC)

Researchers have created the first-ever nanocomposite biomaterial transcatheter heart-valve developed to reduce or eliminate complications related to heart transplants. By using a newly developed technique, the researchers were able to build a more durable valve that enables the heart to adapt faster and more seamlessly.

“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,” says Assistant Professor Hadi Mohammadi, who runs the Heart Valve Performance Laboratory (HVPL) through UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. “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. The combination of their new material with the noninvasive nature of transcatheter heart valves makes this new design very promising for use with high-risk patients, according to Mohammadi.

“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 percent 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.”

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.

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