Heart-ening mitral valve

20 October 2015 | Research
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A close-up view of the prosthetic heart valve called VeloX

A team of NUS researchers has developed an innovative prosthetic heart valve that can be implanted through a small incision to treat mitral regurgitation. The invention will be a boon to patients who are unsuitable for operation to replace or repair the diseased valve.

Mitral regurgitation, a serious condition where the heart's left valve does not close properly and reduces the amount of blood that gets circulated, affects some 12 million people worldwide. It can lead to death within six years in one-third of patients if not treated. The standard management for the severe disease with open-heart surgery is not suitable for elderly patients or those suffering from multiple chronic diseases.

The new heart valve, known as VeloX, is jointly developed by Associate Professor Leo Hwa Liang from NUS Biomedical Engineering and Dr Jimmy Hon from NUS Surgery. Made of pericardial tissue contained within a self-expanding, polymer-coated nickel-titanium alloy stent frame, the prosthetic valve can be compressed to the thickness of a pencil and loaded on a catheter. This is then delivered straight into the left heart through a small incision made either at the leg or between the ribs.

Assoc Prof Leo highlighted the unique ability of VeloX to be self-centring, thanks to its retrievable and repositionable structure. This enables optimal positioning, a critical factor for successful implantation. Dr Hon added that the device also restores the unidirectional flow of the blood in the left heart, helping to alleviate symptoms associated with mitral regurgitation.

The researchers are now refining the design of the product. They have started preclinical trials and target to commence clinical trials in about two years. They have filed a patent for the device, and aim to work with medical technology companies to commercialise their invention to benefit patients soon.

Heart Valve cropped

A catheter (left) is inserted into the patient to deliver the device (right) straight into the left heart through a small incision

See press release.