Nearly 1.5 million people worldwide suffer from heart problems due to a defect in their aortic valve. In order to protect the heart, surgery is required to replace the damaged valve. At present, patients have two options: replace the diseased valve with a biological valve, usually made of pig tissue, or with an artificial metal valve. These solutions are not completely satisfactory since porcine (or bovine) tissue valves are biocompatible but have a limited lifespan of 10 to 15 years, while metal valves last longer but require patients to take daily anticoagulant treatments throughout their lives to avoid complications due to blood clot formation.
This is why the medical world has long been looking for a third way!
A promising alternative for valve replacement surgery
After three years of development work and extra-vivo and in-vivo testing, the copolymer core developed by Professor Geoff Moggridge, Head of the Structured Materials Group in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at Cambridge and Professor Raimondo Ascione, NHS Adult Cardiac Surgeon and Head of the Translational Biomedical Research Center (TBRC) at the University of Bristol, combines the advantages of existing solutions without their drawbacks: it could work for up to 25 years, without requiring patients to take anticoagulants for life.
Called PoliValve, this new heart valve made entirely from styrenic block copolymers combines all the features of a natural heart valve, namely flexibility, durability and biocompatibility.
In addition, its manufacturing process based on injection moulding of the copolymers would reduce manufacturing, production and quality control costs.
Tests conducted so far in vitro have far exceeded the requirements of ISO standards for testing in humans, i.e. withstanding a minimum of 200 million opening and closing repetitions during laboratory testing. They have also shown in vitro functional performance comparable to the best biological valve currently available on the market.
Impressive results for Professor Moggridge who said "PoliValve is a promising alternative for valve replacement surgery. Although further testing is needed, we believe it could make a major difference for the hundreds of thousands of patients who have to undergo valve replacement surgery each year." And Professor Ascione added that this new valve could "help millions of people around the world".
Before that, however, the new valve will have to be tested on patients over the next five years.