Collaboration brings new hope for heart patients

Supplied: The 3D printed titanium valve.

There is new hope for some heart disease patients in Africa after regional collaboration between the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) and the University of the Free State (UFS).

CUT and UFS are embarking on a new collaboration that will provide and advance universal access to cardiac surgical services, mainly in Africa and the world in general.
A team from the two universities has developed a new polyurethane heart valve that will 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.
“This is the beginning of an exciting phase of collaborative development between the UFS, CUT and Stellenbosch University, said Prof. Francis Smith, Head of Robert W M Frater Cardiovascular Research Centre in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UFS.
For years, doctors across the continent have 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 – the use of medicine that prevents blood clotting) and a biological valve (not requiring anticoagulation).
This polyurethane valve is 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.
“Our five-year plan is to deliver a service to our community through manufacturing of implantable patient-specific prostheses as requested by medical practitioners,” said Gerrie Booysen, director of the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM) at CUT.
The valve has a titanium frame (which is 3-D printed by the CRPM) and then dips moulded using locally designed moulds and an automated dip moulding process developed at CUT.
This project was initiated by Prof. Francis Smit in collaboration with the CRPM at CUT, which specialises in Additive Manufacturing, while the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Stellenbosch will be focusing on computational fluid dynamics and finite element modelling.
The team will soon proceed with further testing required for FDA and 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 in our large animal unit.
The UFS and CUT have received funding from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) to support this development. – CUT statement.