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Medicine United Kingdom Science

Engineer Designs His Own Heart Valve Implant 151

nametaken writes "In 2000, Tal Golesworthy, a British engineer, was told that he suffers from Marfan syndrome, a disorder of the connective tissue that often causes rupturing of the aorta. The only solution then available was the pairing of a mechanical valve and a highly risky blood thinner. To an engineer like Golesworthy, that just wasn't good enough. So he constructed his own implant that does the job better than the existing solution--and became the first patient to try it."
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Engineer Designs His Own Heart Valve Implant

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  • Inventor CV (Score:5, Informative)

    by Saija ( 1114681 ) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @11:12PM (#35016378) Journal
    here []
  • by PatPending ( 953482 ) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @11:12PM (#35016382)
    Fuck POPSCI, here's the link to the original article [] (Warning: graphic photographs)
  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @11:36PM (#35016474)

    'It seemed to me to be pretty obvious that you could scan the heart structure, model it with a CAD routine, then use RP [rapid prototyping] to create a former on which to manufacture a device,' explained Golesworthy. 'In a sense, conceptually, it was very simple to do. Actually engineering that was significantly more complex.'

    Golesworthy believes that projects such as this demonstrate that the interface between engineers and the rest of the world isn't functioning in the way it should. 'When it does function, huge advances can be made in a very short time period, on very little money,' he said. 'We have changed the world for people with aortic dilation and we have done it on a fraction of the cost.'

    In May 2004, Golesworthy became the first recipient of his own invention after undergoing surgery at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Since then, 23 patients have successfully had the implant fitted and another seven are hoping to undergo the procedure. According to Golesworthy, the technique will soon replace the Bentall procedure and could be used to treat other heart conditions.

    Wrapping the aorta with artificial material isn't a new idea. More than 20 years ago, US surgeon Francis Robicsek attempted to fashion an external, hand-tailored support for the aorta. The proposal was made before the widespread use of CAD, MRI and RP. Materials such as polypropylene, nylon and knitted Dacron were proposed, with Dacron being the most popular. However, attempting to accurately recreate the shape of the aorta using material cut during surgery proved extremely difficult and the technique never caught on. Instead, off-the-shelf composite valve conduits were offered as a more realistic solution. 'Technology has allowed us to revisit the idea,' said Golesworthy. 'The aorta is such an extraordinary shape that you can't possibly do it by a "taking a yoghurt pot I prepared earlier'. The only way was to bring scanning, CAD and RP together.'

  • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @12:32AM (#35016774) Homepage Journal
    Living tissue (like a vein) is the most infection-resistant substrate. Infection is a major worry when using artificial graft material, because there isn't and won't be any blood supply to the graft. Synthetic grafts would be grossly inferior to venous grafts, which themselves are poor substitutes for arterial grafts (but there are remarkably few redundant arteries, so the question is generally moot).
  • by robbak ( 775424 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @01:03AM (#35016880) Homepage

    From reading the article, it seems that it is a precisely created wrapping around the outside of the bulging aorta, supporting it. The 'breakthrough' is using medical imaging and 3D printing to make a model of his aorta, so the wrapping can be made accurately before the operation. Previous attempts where the aorta had to be measured and the support created during the operation had been tried unsuccessfully.

  • by vlueboy ( 1799360 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @01:06AM (#35016894)

    It's a perineum gangrene (pubic area) acording to the internet. Grangrenes are painful rotting of living tissue and require amputation lest you get infected from the necrotic tissue; I suppose its picture has lots of black tissue where you expect skin colors, pus, gore, lots of rotting and hanging skin, and unkempt pubic hairs, and badly decayed sexual organs; male and female.

    We see tons of hearts on TV, and they're beating --not rotting-- while being operating on, unhealthy as they may be at the moment. No, there's no need to see a picture of your proposed comparison to sober up. But thanks for letting us inspect how bad things can get.

  • by Kilrah_il ( 1692978 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @03:59AM (#35017448)

    When you transplant an organ, it is connected to blood vessels and thus is exposed to the immune system. When you put in biologic valves, no blood vessels are connected and there is no immune rejection. We do not understand completely why they are not rejected, because obviously they do get some blood, since they aren't ischemic, but I believe it has to do with the lack of good blood supply.
    BTW, as far as I know Porcine valves also do not need immunosuppresion, same as corneal implants.

  • Re:Physics (Score:4, Informative)

    by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @07:37AM (#35018254) Homepage Journal
    The aorta is more like a balloon, less like a pipe. The graft is not very large, maybe 5-6 cm in length. In effect, you have moved the beginning of the aorta downstream a few cm. The aorta is supposed to expand with each beat and absorb the blood squeezed out by the heart, then shrink back down to size during diastole. This graft means that the first part of the aorta can't do that, and so the next part will have to. Soon, it too may need a jacket...
  • Re:Um... (Score:4, Informative)

    by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @08:01AM (#35018346)

    In May 2004, we wouldn't have known if the procedure was actually successful. The fact that they tried a new technique isn't news. That he's still alive 7 years later is news.

  • by kabloom ( 755503 ) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @10:50AM (#35019720) Homepage

    The life expectancy of someone with Marfan syndrome was 32 +/- 16 years in 1972, and is now 41 +/- 18 years [] (all you need to see from that link is the abstract). If I could guess that the increase has to do with improved treatment technology (rather than improved management strategies), then someone getting surgery for Marfan syndrome is probably in their 20s or 30s, because they're unlikely to live too much longer than their late 30's or early 40's without surgery.

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