Researchers at Qatar University (QU), in collaboration with researchers from Imperial College London, Biostage, Inc (USA), and American University of Beirut (Lebanon) have made a leap forward in developing engineered living heart valves that can work like the natural heart valves and grow bigger after implantation in human heart.
The team generated the valve using a combination of nanotechnology, 3D printing and newly developed tissue engineering techniques.
They made a 3D shape of heart valve using a special type of nanofiber-based biomaterial which was then injected with living human cells, and grown inside a tissue incubator before being ready to go through the testing and implantation in heart.
The injected cells create and deposit their own natural matrix over time while the initial supporting material used to make the valve slowly degrades and gets replaced by the matrix deposited by the cells.
This technique called "tissue engineering" is one of the latest advancements in the field of biomedical engineering and has recently been successfully applied to develop engineered human skins and bladders.
The team also employed a series of new testing procedures for engineered heart valves to ensure the highest quality of the developed valves before their implantation in living body, using tests involving a pulse duplicator and echocardiography machine that have enormous potential for routine application in engineered tissue testing before their implantation.
The research was funded by Qatar National Research Fund and published in the Scientific Reports journal by Nature publications, a leading scientific publisher worldwide.
QU College of Engineering assistant professor and lead principal investigator of the project, Dr Anwarul Hasan, said: "These viable, biocompatible and durable engineered tissue valves offer numerous advantages in comparison to currently available metal valves and animal valves which often create complications with the body's natural defence system or last only few years. The engineered tissue valves will last longer, be adopted by the body without rejection and grow with patient's growth."
QU College of Health Sciences dean and Biomedical Research Centre director, Dr Asma al-Thani, said: "This is a remarkable achievement and a clear indication of how our talented researchers at QU are leading cutting-edge research using the latest technologies to serve the humanity."
Hamad General Hospital Medical director Dr Yousuf Maslamani said: "This achievement is the result of QUs collaboration with prestigious international institutions and is a milestone in the development of human implantable engineered tissues and organs, especially given the enormous shortage of organ donors and the great need for such biologically engineered organs and tissues."