Joint skill taken to heart

2016-09-14 06:00
THE revolutionary polyurethane heart valve being developed through a partnership between two Free State universities.

THE revolutionary polyurethane heart valve being developed through a partnership between two Free State universities.

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THE development of a new polyurethane heart valve by two universities in the Free State is envisaged to alleviate the suffering of patients with heart disease in Africa.

This is a result of collaboration between the Central University of Technology (CUT) Free State and the University of the Free State (UFS).

The two institutions are embarking on a new partnership that will provide and advance universal access to cardiac surgical services mainly in Africa, with future plans to take it globally.

Gerrie Booysen, director of the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM) at CUT, said this polyurethane valve was a new innovation in the medical field and was made possible by the university’s School of Medicine.

“The valve does not require anti­coagulation and might be an ideal solution for the young African patient,” Booysen said.

“Our five-year plan is to deliver a service to our community through the manufacturing of implantable patient-specific prostheses as requested by medical practitioners.”

The project was initiated by Prof. Francis Smit, head of the Robert W.M. Frater Cardiovascular Research Centre in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UFS, in collaboration with the CRPM at the CUT, which specialises in additive manufacturing.

The Mechanical Engineering Department at Stellenbosch Universitystet (SU) will be focusing on computational fluid dynamics and finite element modelling.

It emerged that doctors across the continent have over four years been battling to come up with solutions for younger patients requiring heart valve replacement, with a choice between a mechanical valve (requiring lifelong anticoagulation therapy) and a biological valve (not requiring anticoagulation).

The newly-developed polyurethane heart valve is said to be able to help treat rheumatic valvular disease, a disease that continues to affect mainly over two million people in the Sub-Saharan region, China and Latin America.

The valve has a titanium frame (which is 3-D printed by the CRPM) and dips moulded using locally-designed moulds and an automated dip moulding process developed at the CUT.

“This is the beginning of an exciting phase of collaborative development between the UFS, the CUT and SU,” Smith said.

The team will soon proceed with further benchmark testing required for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Conformity (CE) mark registration, including strength testing and ultra-structure evaluation of the polyurethane leaflets.

Using sophisticated pulse duplication and fatigue testing, valve design can be evaluated and modified before final testing.

The UFS and CUT have received funding from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) to support this development.

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