New research from the Okanagan campus at the University of British Columbia may take the current “gold standard” for heart valves to a new level of reliability.
A team of researchers at UBCO’s Heart Valve Performance Laboratory (HVPL) has developed a method for improving overall blood flow through the valves, so mechanical heart valve design would be more consistent with the real thing.
Dr. Hadi Mohammadi, Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering and Principal Investigator at HVPL explains. “The way blood moves through the body is very unique to a person’s physiology, so a one-size-fits-all valve has always been a real challenge.”
Mohammadi, along with PhD student Arben Bhular, have developed an innovative mechanical tube that enables a mechanical heart valve to function just like the real thing. The diode – two semicircular leaflets that rotate around hinges – is a mechanical gate that allows blood to flow steadily and ensures flow in one direction.
Mohammadi says that although artificial valves were developed decades ago and used regularly to improve a patient’s blood flow, they were far from perfect. With current versions of bileaflets, there is a small risk of developing blood clots or even regurgitation.
The patch design is essential to maintain blood flow in order to eliminate risks to the patient. Mohammadi believes he has found a way to fix the problem, by adding a simple twist to the design.
“Our findings show that our upper heart valve maintains steady flow due to its breakthrough design – specifically the curvature of the valve, which reduces coagulation.”
Initial design was confirmed by Dr. Jay Fradette, Head of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Program at Kelowna General Hospital. Mohammadi says that innovations in mechanical heart valves take decades before they can be used in humans, but he is confident his new leaflet valve is the way to go.
“The work we do has resulted in a valve design that could serve as the basis for the next generation of bi-phase mechanical heart valves,” he says. “Our research, together with computer simulations and laboratory studies, helped evaluate the performance of the proposed valve and also compare it to the industry gold standard.”
Results published in Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology, It is suggested that additional experiments are still needed to confirm valve effectiveness. Researchers are now working to develop 3D printed prototypes of carbon and aluminum for the valve for further testing. The research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.