A team of researchers from Qatar University (QU) along with several partners, is making rapid progress in finding solution for heart valve diseases, by engineering living heart valves.
The research has made great advances in developing engineered living heart valves that can work like the natural heart valves and grow bigger after being implanted in human heart, according to the research outcomes published on QU website.
The research in collaboration with researchers from Imperial College London, Biostage, Inc, US and American University of Beirut, Lebanon, makes use of the latest tissue engineering concept as well as other techniques.
It is expected that the efforts could save the lives of millions around the world as heart valve diseases are among the leading causes of cardiac failure.
The research team has generated the valve using a combination of nanotechnology, 3D printing and newly developed tissue engineering techniques. They made a 3D heart valve using a special type of nanofibre-based biomaterial, which was then injected with living human cells, and grown inside a tissue incubator before testing and implantation in heart.
The injected cells create and deposit their own natural matrix over the time while the initial supporting material used to make the valve slowly degrades and gets replaced by the matrix deposited by the cells. This technique called “tissue engineering” is one of the latest advancements in the field of biomedical engineering and has recently been successfully applied to develop engineered human skins and bladders.
The team has also employed a series of new testing procedures for engineered heart valves to ensure the highest quality of the developed valves before their implantation in living body, using tests involving a pulse duplicator and echocardiography machine that have enormous potential for routine application in engineered tissue testing before their implantation.
Nearly 90,000 heart valve replacements occur in the US annually. About 25,000 deaths in the US and 3% of sudden deaths in the European Union occur annually because of cardiac valve defects. These numbers are expected to triple in the next 50 years due to an aging population.
Currently, available options for heart valve replacement include bioprosthetic and mechanical valves, both of which have severe limitations. Bioprosthetic valves can last for only 10-20 years while patients with mechanical valves always require blood-thinning medications throughout the remainder of their lives. However, tissue engineering has emerged as a promising solution for the development of a viable, biocompatible and durable heart valve.