Harvard’s Wass Institute and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have unveiled a promising synthetic heart valve called FibraValve. The implant is designed to be used for growing children. FibraValve can be manufactured in minutes using a spun-fiber method that helps in shaping the valve’s delicate flaps at a microscopic level. This makes the valve ready to be colonized by the patient’s living cells and promotes growth as the patient matures.
FibraValve is a follow-up version of JetValve, the team’s 2017 artificial heart valve that employed the same principles. However, the latest version uses “focused rotary jet spinning,” which allows the synthetic fibers to be collected more quickly and accurately using streams of focused air. The technology can capture the polymer’s micro- and nano-fibers, which can more precisely replicate the tissue structure of an organic heart valve. The entire manufacturing process takes less than 10 minutes, unlike other methods that can require hours.
Notably, the FibraValve is made of a new, custom polymer material known as PLCL, which is a combination of polycaprolactone and polylactic acid. The valve is expected to last inside the patient for about six months, which should be enough time for the patient’s cells to infiltrate the structure and take over.
Although the valve has only been successfully tested in sheep so far, the goal is for the resulting organic tissue to grow with human children as they mature. This could potentially void the need for risky replacement surgeries as their bodies grow. “Our goal is for the patient’s native cells to use the device as a blueprint to regenerate their living valve tissue,” said corresponding author Kevin “Kit” Parker.
In a live test on sheep, the FibraValve started functioning immediately, with its leaflets opening and closing to let blood flow through with every heartbeat. The valve also showed no signs of damage or any other problems. The team believes their breakthrough could eventually help create different valves, cardiac patches, and blood vessels.
The researchers are currently planning for more extended animal testing over weeks and months, but their breakthrough research could revolutionize current medical implants and create customized implants that can grow alongside patients, especially children. You can read more about it on Matter.