Heart valve implant avoids open-heart surgery

Made of pericardial tissue contained within a self-expanding, polymer-coated nickel-titanium alloy stent frame, the prosthetic valve can be compressed to the thickness of a pencil and loaded on a catheter. (Credit: National University of Singapore)

Researchers have developed a prosthetic heart valve that doctors could implant through a small incision to treat mitral regurgitation.

The invention may benefit patients who are cannot have an operation to replace or repair the diseased valve.

Mitral regurgitation, a serious condition in which the heart’s left valve does not close properly and reduces the amount of blood that gets circulated, affects some 12 million people worldwide. It can lead to death within six years in one-third of patients if not treated. The standard management for the severe disease with open-heart surgery is not suitable for elderly patients or those suffering from multiple chronic diseases.

Leo Hwa Liang, an associate professor in biomedical engineering and Jimmy Hon of surgery at National University of Singapore developed the new heart valve, known as VeloX.

Made of pericardial tissue contained within a self-expanding, polymer-coated nickel-titanium alloy stent frame, the prosthetic valve can be compressed to the thickness of a pencil and loaded on a catheter. This is then delivered straight into the left heart through a small incision made either at the leg or between the ribs.

Leo highlights the unique ability of VeloX to be self-centering, thanks to its retrievable and repositionable structure. This enables optimal positioning, a critical factor for successful implantation. Hon adds that the device also restores the unidirectional flow of the blood in the left heart, helping to alleviate symptoms associated with mitral regurgitation.

The researchers are now refining the design of the product. They have started preclinical trials and aim to commence clinical trials in about two years. They have filed a patent for the device, and hope to work with medical technology companies to commercialize their invention to benefit patients soon.

Source: National University of Singapore