Researchers have developed a synthetic heart valve that can grow new tissue inside the body, paving the way for longer-lasting heart valve replacements for patients.
Faulty heart valves – often caused by congenital heart defects – can be replaced using surgery, but while people who receive plastic valves must take medication for the rest of their lives, those with biological ones only see the valves last up to 15 years, meaning several further replacements.
An international study led by Imperial College London and Harefield Hospital, both UK, found a solution to this problem by developing a valve that is made of biodegradable synthetic material, which allows it to ‘recruit’ cells for tissue growth once inside the body, before slowly degrading.
When transplanted into sheep, the valves functioned well and were able to facilitate tissue regeneration for six months.
“The aim of the concept we’ve developed is to produce a living valve in the body, which would be able to grow with the patient,” said researcher Yuan-Tsan Tseng.
The team will continue to follow the process in animal tests with the aim to later start clinical trials, and hope the technology could have other applications, such as repairing blood vessels.