Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) are a step closer to being able to implant regenerative heart valves and blood vessels.
Nowadays, stents and heart valve prostheses can replace diseased or congenitally malformed cardiovascular tissues. That’s thanks to significant advancements. But, most current prostheses are passive; they don’t help cells near the implant grow.
The non-degradable prostheses remain in the body permanently too. As a result, this gradually affects patients’, especially children’s, quality of life. The prosthesis doesn’t grow as they do; making further operations inevitable.
Help the body heal itself
That’s what driving a group of TU/e researchers to explore an alternative. They want to see if it’s possible to implant biodegradable plastic heart valves and blood vessels into the human body. The idea is that the body accepts and transforms these into living tissue, so helping itself to heal.
The team is led by Carlijn Bouten and Anthal Smits from the University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. They’re working with several clinical partners, including the Dutch Heart Foundation. Now, for the first time, these valves and stents have been evaluated in a pre-clinical setting.
“In both studies, the work took more than three years. But the tremendous efforts of our large interdisciplinary collaborations are finally bearing fruit,” says Anthal. The team recently published their results in two significant papers in the journal JACC: Basic to Translational Science.