Breakthrough design at UBCO vastly improves mechanical heart valve

UBCO's valve breakthrough

Researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan continue to chase advancements in heart valve reliability, with new research coming out of the campus possibly taking the current ‘gold standard’ to the next level.

A team of researchers at UBCO’s Heart Valve Performance Lab has developed a way to improve overall blood flow through the valves, so the design of mechanical heart valves will more closely match the real thing.

“Despite more than 40 years of research, we are still chasing the goal of creating mechanical heart valves that perform consistently and seamlessly inside the human body,” explains Dr. Hadi Mohammadi, an associate professor at the School of Engineering and lead researcher for the HVPL. “The way blood travels through the body is very unique to a person’s physiology, so a ‘one-size fits all’ valve has always been a real challenge.”

The team has developed an innovative mechanical bileaflet that enables the mechanical heart valve to function just like the real thing. A bileaflet valve—two semicircular leaflets that pivot on hinges—is a mechanical gateway that allows consistent blood-flow and ensures the flow is in one direction.

Bileaflets were invented decades ago but there remains a small risk of blood clots or even a backflow of blood but Mohammadi believes he’s found a way to fix the problem.

“Our findings show our apex heart valve maintains consistent flow as a result of its breakthrough design —specifically the valve’s curvature which mitigates clotting.”

This modification may not be used on humans for a while (possibly decades), but Mohammadi says he is confident his novel leaflet-shaped valve is the way of the future.

“The work we’re doing has resulted in the design of a valve which may serve as the foundation for the next generation of bileaflet mechanical heart valves,” he says.

“Our research, with computer simulation and in-vitro studies, helped evaluate the performance of the proposed valve and also compare it to the industry gold standard.”

The researchers are now in the process of developing 3D-printed, carbon and aluminum prototypes of the valve for further testing.

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