Inventors: Dr. Marta Serrani & Professor Geoff Moggridge, Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology
The inventors have developed a new type of polymeric material which has high durability and specific mechanical properties, being stiff in one direction and flexible in another. The bio-compatible materials can be manufactured easily using standard industrial methods and are well-suited to being used in vivo. The first application which the inventors have investigated is to use the material as the basis for replacement aortic heart valves. These valves are expected to have a long life span of around 30 years and the patients would not need long-term anti-coagulants, in contrast with existing mechanical heart valves or biological valves made from animal tissue.
The inventors have a good understanding of the market for aortic heart valves, as well as the regulatory approvals that they need to meet. The question now is what other uses would benefit from a similar approach.
One such extension is to look at the other heart valves, ie the mitral valves and tricuspid valves which have different requirements in terms of size, shape and characteristics compared to the aortic valves.
A broader extension is to look at other parts of the body where valves might need to be replaced. A key area for this is deep venous disease, to use the technology to replace the valves in deep veins such as those in the legs. Available treatments focus on dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause, for example wearing compression tights to reduce leg swelling, and there are no current methods to restore valve function in the veins.
The challenge for the i-Team is to look at the possible applications of the polymeric material in patients. They will need to understand what problems different conditions cause for doctors and patients, to help the inventors understand the impact that their valves could have. They will also aim to identify the properties that the polymeric valves would need to have for each application in terms of size, shape and the material properties. The i-Team will need to speak with relevant clinicians and patient groups and advise the inventors on which products to develop next with their polymeric materials.