Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing replacement parts in the laboratory, forms a key part of this research. The parts can be used to replace defective cells and tissues in the body and restore their normal functioning. The bioengineered replacements have significant advantages over the artificial implants currently in use: They do not cause immune reactions in the patient's body, and they can grow and regenerate themselves.

Designing heart valves on the computer

An international consortium led by UZH Professor Simon P. Hoerstrup has now reached a milestone on the road towards being able to treat heart patients using new heart valves cultured from human cells: As part of the EU-funded project LifeValve, for the first time the team, using computer simulations, succeeded in individually predicting how well cultured heart valves would grow, regenerate, and function in large animal models (sheep). "Thanks to the simulations, we can optimize the design and composition of the regenerative heart valves and develop customized implants for use in therapy," says Hoerstrup of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at UZH.

Predicting regeneration - an important step towards clinical application

In particular, changes to the structure of the heart valve that occur in the body during the dynamic regeneration process can be predicted by computer simulations and anticipated accordingly in the design. The results that have now been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine are a significant step towards the routine application of the Zurich-developed tissue engineering technology in the future. Moreover, the findings provide a basic conceptual contribution that will aid the successful transfer to clinical use of new bioengineering technologies in regenerative medicine.

Current prostheses have to be regularly replaced in children

Valvular heart disease is one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Currently available artificial heart valve prostheses are an unsatisfactory solution, in particular for children with congenital heart defects. Children with defective heart valves or blood vessels often have to undergo an operation to have them replaced by prostheses which cannot grow as the child's body grows. This means they then require multiple reoperations with an associated increased risk of surgical complications and considerable psycho-social stress for the young patients and their families. Prostheses of animal origin - e.g. from pigs or cows - also wear out with time and have to be replaced. Adult patients could therefore also benefit from regenerative heart valves and blood vessels.

No one-size-fits-all solution

While this field of research is promising and the first clinical uses of heart valves and blood vessels cultured using tissue engineering have already been made, there are still a few hurdles to get over before the technology can be routinely used. "One of the biggest challenges for complex implants such as heart valves is that each patient's potential for regeneration is different. There is therefore no one-size-fits-all solution", emphasizes Hoerstrup, whose research team has been among the pioneers of cardiovascular tissue engineering for more than 20 years.

The University Children's Hospital Zurich is currently preparing a study treating children who have congenital heart defects with tissue engineered blood vessels, developed as part of the LifeMatrix project by Wyss Zurich. Wyss Zurich is a new center run jointly by the University of Zurich and ETH to support the clinical translation of innovative findings into novel medical therapies in the areas of regenerative medicine and robotics.

Maximilian Y Emmert, Boris A Schmitt, Sandra Loerakker, Bart Sanders, Hendrik Spriestersbach, Emanuela S Fioretta, Leon Bruder, Kerstin Brakmann, Sarah E Motta, Valentina Lintas, Petra E Dijkman, Laura Frese, Felix Berger, Frank PT Baaijens, Simon P Hoerstrup.
Computational modeling guides tissue-engineered heart valve design for long-term in vivo performance in a translational sheep model.
Science Translational Medicine, Vol. 10, Issue 440, eaan4587. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan4587.

Most Popular Now

Digital Health Consultancy Expands to Su…

Digital health consultancy Populo Consulting has announced the appointment of a new managing director as part of an ambitious growth strategy. The expansion will enable it to support more NHS...

Alcon to Develop SMART Suite Digital Hea…

Alcon, the global leader in eye care and a division of Novartis, today announced plans to develop the SMART Suite by Alcon, an innovative, digital platform that is designed to...

Stanford, Apple Describe Heart Study wit…

A clinical trial to determine whether a smartwatch app that analyzes pulse-rate data can screen for a heart-rhythm disorder has enrolled more than 400,000 participants. Researchers at Stanford Medicine, in...

The Partnership for Digital Healthis Com…

15 - 16 November 2018, Berlin, Germany. The initiative co-founded by Egon Zehnder and including partners Sanofi, SAP and Qiagen, is one of the most forward-thinking partnerships for promoting innovation in...

With Mobilett Elara Max, Siemens Healthi…

With the presentation of Mobilett Elara Max, Siemens Healthineers is setting new standards in mobile X-ray imaging. The easy-to-clean system surfaces with an antimicrobial coating reduce the risk of hospital...

Augmented Reality may Assist Cardiologis…

Augmented reality (AR), a technology that superimposes computer-generated information on a user's view of the real world, offers a new platform to help physicians better visualize complex medical data, particularly...

Health Tech Communications Agency Takes …

Highland Marketing, a full service marketing communications agency for the health tech and wider public sector markets, has appointed Michelle Cheng as marketing executive to support the business' rapid growth.

IBM to Acquire Red Hat, Completely Chang…

IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Red Hat (NYSE:RHT), the world's leading provider of open source cloud software, announced that the companies have reached a definitive agreement under which IBM will acquire all...

Open Call SC1-DTH-05-2019: Large Scale I…

An ageing population is increasing demand-side pressures on public health and social care providers across Europe. These pressures undermine the long-term sustainability of existing models for delivering care services to...

Robotic Arm may Help to Rehabilitate Chr…

New research published in Frontiers in Neurology finds that robotic arm rehabilitation in chronic stroke patients with aphasia, the loss of ability to understand or express speech, may promote speech...

Breakthrough Neurotechnology for Treatin…

Three paraplegics who sustained cervical spinal cord injuries many years ago are now able to walk with the aid of crutches or a walker thanks to new rehabilitation protocols that...