Towards the creation of functional, living and autologous engineered heart valves

04/23/2012 - 11:45am to 12:35pm
Dr. Sharan Ramaswamy, Biomedical Engineering Florida, International University

Heart valves are unique organs that continue to remodel after birth and throughout adulthood.  As simple a purpose as they seem to have, i.e., in ensuring unidirectional blood flow, valves that lose their functionality because of disease or defects may result in fatal cardiovascular consequences.  Heart valve tissue cannot spontaneously regenerate and as a result, surgical repair and replacement with a prosthetic device is necessary.  Mechanical and bio-prosthetic valves are routinely used to correct for valve problems.  Several complications can arise with the use of artificial valves, such as thrombus formation, calcification and structural breakdown, but overall, their application has nonetheless been relatively successful.  Yet, among children suffering from congenital heart valve defects (~ 1% of live births, Jain R., et al, Ann NY Acad Sci (2010)), no prosthetic valve can accommodate for somatic growth, thereby necessitating multiple valve operations until adulthood.  In this context, the notion of a tissue engineered heart valve (TEHV) that can offer a permanent solution by biologically adapting, integrating and growing with the patient, without the need for additional surgical interventions is extremely appealing.  However, the design criteria for such a construct are high and require that it not only perform well long-term, but must also have the ability to self-repair and remodel similar to native healthy heart valves.  In this talk, a brief background of TEHV development and strategies for approaching this challenging problem will be presented.  Insights that have been gained through research protocols will be shown.  Finally, important research steps needed to translate work on TEHVs from that of an undeniably interesting scientific process to potential clinical reality will be addressed.

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