May 24, 2024
Heart Treatment

Revolutionary Heart Treatment Shows Promise in Growing Replacement Valves Within the Body

A groundbreaking heart valve treatment, capable of growing replacement valves inside the body, has taken a significant step towards becoming a reality. Researchers at Imperial have led studies that demonstrate the potential of this pioneering approach, with results published in Communications Biology.

Though surgical heart valve replacements have been available for over six decades, both mechanical and biological valves come with their own limitations. Mechanical valves require patients to take lifelong medication to prevent blood clotting, while biological valves only last between 10 to 15 years. Children with congenital heart defects face particular challenges, as the valves do not grow in tandem with their bodies and often require multiple replacements before reaching adulthood.

However, recent research conducted by Sir Magdi Yacoub’s team at Harefield Hospital and Imperial has introduced a more adaptable approach. Dr. Yuan-Tsan Tseng, a biomaterials scientist at the National Heart and Lung Institute, explains the concept: “The aim of the concept we’ve developed is to produce a living valve in the body, which would be able to grow with the patient.”

The procedure involves using a nanofibrous polymeric valve made from a biodegradable polymer scaffold instead of a durable plastic. Once implanted, the scaffold recruits cells and guides their development, effectively transforming the body into a bioreactor capable of growing new tissue. Over time, the scaffold degrades and is replaced by the body’s own tissues, resulting in a fully functional living valve.

Crucially, the scaffold material used in this approach plays a pivotal role in attracting the appropriate cells from the patient’s body and facilitating tissue generation to maintain valve function. The design and manufacture of the valve, along with validation of its performance in laboratory settings and initial results from animal tests, have been outlined in an academic paper. The valves were successfully transplanted into sheep and monitored for up to six months.

Dr. Tseng remarks, “The valves performed very well during the six months of the trial, demonstrating good cellular regeneration.” The study reveals that the scaffold effectively attracted cells from the bloodstream, which subsequently developed into functional tissues through a process known as endothelial-to-mesenchymal transformation (EndMT). Nerves and fatty tissues were also observed growing within the scaffold, simulating the natural development of a normal valve.

Moreover, the gradual degradation of the polymer scaffold to pave the way for new tissue regeneration was closely monitored using gel permeability chromatography (GPC) in Imperial’s Molecular Sciences Research Hub. Dr. Tseng explains, “GPC provided insights into the molecular weight of the polymer in samples taken from the valves at different time points throughout the in-vivo study.” The results confirmed that the structure was gradually breaking down without affecting the valve’s performance.

While further investigation is warranted to fully understand the processes behind polymer degradation and its relationship with tissue regeneration, the current state of tissue regrowth is sufficient to maintain the structural integrity and functionality of the valve. “This demonstrates that our idea of in-vivo regeneration is working,” affirms Dr. Tseng.

This groundbreaking heart valve treatment represents a significant advancement in cardiac care, offering hope for patients in need of replacement valves. If continued progress is made, this innovative approach could revolutionize the field and provide long-term solutions for individuals with heart valve disorders.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it