Every year, more than 250,000 patients worldwide receive heart valve implants. Children require repeated replacement surgery because their bodies are still growing, whereas the prosthetic heart valves are not. Regenerative heart valves can solve this problem. Until now, we have only been able to monitor how these living implants develop in the body after the fact. Thanks to computer models, these processes are now predictable.
In this MEDICA-tadefair.com interview, Professor Simon P. Hoerstrup explains how regenerative heart valves are made, describes why predicting their development in the body is so important, and reveals how this has now been achieved for the very first time.
Professor Hoerstrup, your research focuses on regenerative heart valves. What makes these prosthetic heart valves so unique? Why are they so important?
Prof. Simon P. Hoerstrup: Heart defects are present in nearly one percent of live births today. Approximately half of these children require a surgical procedure such as the replacement of a heart valve or blood vessel. That's a surprisingly large number. Artificial heart valves, which are also used in adults, are the current option for these tiny patients. The valves are made of plastic or animal tissue material. Although they generally work well, they have one major drawback when it comes to children: they are unable to grow as the child's body grows. This means children must undergo repeated replacement surgery until they reach full maturity to adapt the prosthesis to the growing body. Meanwhile, repeated surgeries can result in complications and sometimes even death. That's why we need implants that grow and ideally only require one-time surgery. This has prompted the research sector to use human cells and create heart valves or blood vessels in the laboratory – via so-called tissue engineering. ...
Read the complete interview with Prof. Simon P. Hoerstrup at MEDICA-tradefair.com!