UBCO Heart Valve Performance Lab (HVPL) researchers developed a way to improve overall blood flow through the valves. This means the design of mechanical heart valves will more closely match a real heart valve.
"Despite more than 40 years of research, we are still chasing the goal of creating mechanical heart valves that perform consistently and seamlessly inside the human body," explained Dr. Hadi Mohammadi, an associate professor at the School of Engineering and lead researcher for the HVPL, in a press release. "The way blood travels through the body is very unique to a person's physiology, so a 'one-size fits all' valve has always been a real challenge."
Mohammadi and doctoral student Arpin Bhullar developed a mechanical bileaflet allowing the mechanical heart valve to function like the real thing. A bileaflet valve—two semicircular leaflets that pivot on hinges—is a mechanical gateway enabling consistent blood-flow and ensuring flow is in one direction.
While developed decades ago and used regularly to improve a patient's blood flow, artificial valves have never been perfect, said Mohammadi. With existing versions of bileaflets, there is a small risk of blood clots or even a backflow of blood.
The bileaflet’s design is integral for maintaining blood flow to eliminate risk. Mohammadi believes he's found a way to fix the problem by adding a slight twist to the design.
"Our findings show our apex heart valve maintains consistent flow as a result of its breakthrough design—specifically the valve's curvature which mitigates clotting."
The initial design was confirmed by Dr. Guy Fradet, head of Kelowna General Hospital's cardiothoracic surgery program. Mohammadi said it takes decades for innovations in mechanical heart valves before they are used on humans, but he’s confident his novel leaflet-shaped valve is the way of the future.
"The work we're doing has resulted in the design of a valve which may serve as the foundation for the next generation of bileaflet mechanical heart valves," he says. "Our research, with computer simulation and in-vitro studies, helped evaluate the performance of the proposed valve and also compare it to the industry gold standard."
Read more about the study here