Researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US have developed a paediatric surgical implant that grows along with the child.
By accommodating growth, the implant is intended to reduce the number of surgeries that have to be performed on a child with heart valve defects.
The researchers developed a proof-of-concept design to be used in a valve annuloplasty procedure for repairing a leak in the heart’s mitral and tricuspid valves.
Harvard Medical School Child Surgery professor and Boston Children’s Hospital cardiac surgery chief Pedro del Nido said: “Medical implants and devices are rarely designed with children in mind, and, as a result, they almost never accommodate growth.
“We’ve created an environment here where individuals with expertise and interest in medical devices can come together and collaborate towards developing materials for paediatric surgery.”
With two components, the design of the tricuspid valve annuloplasty ring implant is based on the braided, expanding concept of a finger trap toy.
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The implant’s biopolymer core degrades while its braided tubular sleeve elongates over time due to the tensile forces exerted by the tissue growth.
Biomedical device company CryoLife is set to develop the proof-of-concept design into a surgical implant.
It is expected that the tubular, expanding design of the implant could be used to develop other growth-accommodating implants for various parts of the body.
Harvard Medical School cardiothoracic surgery clinical fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital Eric Feins said: “This concept could be adapted for many different clinical applications, with exciting potential to be converted into an actively rather than passively elongating structure that could act as a tissue scaffold encouraging growth.”
Image: Artist’s rendering of how a braided, tubular implant could grow along with a child’s heart valve. Photo: courtesy of Randal McKenzie.