Computer-designed heart valves implanted into sheep for the first time

June 28, 2018, CORDIS
Computer-designed heart valves implanted into sheep for the first time
Credit: Yurchanka Siarhei, Shutterstock

According to the European Society of Cardiology, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Europe. Each year, 3.9 million people die here from heart disease, which is responsible for 45 % of all deaths on the continent.

Heart replacement surgery remains the most common treatment for damage or defects in one of the four . But around a third of patients face problems within 10 years of receiving the implant and often require further, potentially life-threatening corrective surgery.

In 2009, an international consortium of scientists embarked on a partly EU-funded project called LIFEVALVE to develop a more efficient strategy for treating patients with valve disease. Now, following years of research, they have made significant progress towards the use of regenerative heart valves to treat heart disease patients in the future. Using computer simulations, they have designed and successfully implanted regenerative heart valves into sheep for the first time. Their results are presented in a paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Computer design of heart valves

The heart valves the team designed and implanted were cultured from . Using computer simulations, the researchers predicted how the prostheses would grow, regenerate and function in the animal. "Thanks to the simulations, we can optimise the design and composition of the regenerative heart valves and develop customised implants for use in therapy," explained project coordinator Prof. Simon Hoerstrup of the University of Zurich in a news release published on the University's website.

Regenerative medicine is a branch of research that uses tissue engineering and molecular biology to generate living tissue or organs from human cells. The tissue and organs are used to repair or replace defective human cells, tissues or organs. This is done to restore or establish normal function.

Such bioengineered replacements overcome a number of drawbacks that current artificial implants have. For example, mechanical heart valves may last indefinitely, but patients are required to take anticoagulants throughout their lives to prevent blood clots. Furthermore, while patients with animal tissue (or biological) prostheses may not need to take anticoagulants, such valves wear out in time. They're also prone to abnormal thickening and calcium build-up, as well as immune system complications. Lack of regeneration is also a severe problem in current artificial prostheses, and especially for children with . Since these prostheses can't grow and regenerate, such children face multiple operations in their lifetime to have valves replaced as their bodies grow. Since the team's tissue-engineered prostheses don't cause immune reactions and are able to grow and regenerate themselves, they stand to offer significant improvements in the quality of life of both young and adult .

Certain obstacles still need to be overcome before the technology can be used in routine clinical practice. "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," Hoerstrup stated.

LIFEVALVE (Living autologous heart valves for minimally invasive implantable procedures) research is being continued with the aim of bringing the first tissue-engineered heart valve on the global market.

Explore further: Computer-designed customized regenerative heart valves

More information: Project web page:

Maximilian Y. Emmert et al. Computational modeling guides tissue-engineered heart valve design for long-term in vivo performance in a translational sheep model, Science Translational Medicine (2018). DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan4587

Related Stories

Computer-designed customized regenerative heart valves

May 9, 2018
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully ...

FDA approves mechanical heart valve for newborns

March 7, 2018
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the world's smallest mechanical heart valve, designed to be used in newborns and other young infants with heart defects.

Clinical study offers new hope for patients with congenital heart disease

October 10, 2014
For over fifteen years, Professor Dr. Axel Haverich, Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic, Transplantation and Vascular Surgery, and his team of cardiac surgeons at Hannover Medical School (MHH) have been working on a ...

Redoing heart valve replacements using a minimally invasive approach

February 20, 2018
There are some instances in life where you wish you could have a redo, but surgery isn't one of them. However, if a redo is necessary, knowing that there is a minimally invasive option can be comforting. Dr. Joseph Lamelas, ...

Heart valves made from tissue rather than metal may be better for middle-aged patients

January 12, 2016
Patients between the ages of 40 and 70 who undergo aortic valve replacement (AVR) may fare better with tissue-based valves rather than metal-based valves, according to a review article posted online today by The Annals of ...

Recommended for you

Study of two tribes sheds light on role of Western-influenced diet in blood pressure

November 14, 2018
A South American tribe living in near-total isolation with no Western dietary influences showed no increase in average blood pressure from age one to age 60, according to a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg ...

Heart failure patients shouldn't stop meds even if condition improves: study

November 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—There's bad news for heart failure patients with dilated cardiomyopathy who'd like to stop taking their meds.

Bypass beats stents for diabetics with heart trouble: study

November 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—People with both diabetes and multiple clogged heart arteries live longer if they undergo bypass surgery rather than have their blood vessels reopened with stents, according to follow-up results from a landmark ...

Kawasaki disease: One disease, multiple triggers

November 12, 2018
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and international collaborators have evidence that Kawasaki Disease (KD) does not have a single cause. By studying ...

New treatment significantly reduces cardiovascular events when combined with statins

November 12, 2018
Statins are the most commonly used treatment for cardiovascular disease. Despite reducing certain risk factors, if triglyceride levels remain high with use of statins, there is still a significant risk for heart attack, stroke ...

Study: How vitamin D and fish oil affect risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer

November 12, 2018
For years, it's remained an open question: What effects do dietary supplements such as high doses of vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil have on the risk of diseases such as heart attack, stroke and cancer? ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.