Life imitates heart.
MIT engineers are 3D printing replicas of patients’ hearts in an attempt to improve replacement valve procedures for those living with heart disease.
Scientists are creating custom robotic hearts that match the original form of a patient’s organ, function and blood-pumping ability.
” All hearts are unique,” Luca Rosalia (a graduate student in MIT’s Harvard Program in Health Sciences and Technology) stated in a statement. “There are massive variations, especially when patients are sick. The advantage of our system is that we can recreate not just the form of a patient’s heart, but also its function in both physiology and disease.”
Rosalia and his team developed a procedure that begins with converting medical images of a patient’s heart into a three-dimensional computer model to create a “soft, flexible shell in the exact shape of the patient’s own heart,” as well as a printed version of the aorta.
They used scans from 15 patients with aortic stenosis — a narrowing of heart valves that impedes blood flow that affects about 1. 5 million people in the United States — to create the printed hearts.
The engineers are also able to manually match the heart’s pumping to mimic the stress and limited airflow heart and heart valve disease patients suffer from.
The team hopes that doctors performing heart replacement valve surgeries will be able to use their 3D method to plan out and practice implanting a variety of valves into a printed model of their patient’s heart ahead of the real procedure.
As many as 85,000 aortic valve replacements are performed in the US each year, the authors said, but the surgery could leave patients with deadly effects if they aren’t given the right size valve.
“Valve migration is probably the worst, because you have something inside your heart,” Rosalia told Bloomberg. “That’s extremely dangerous. You would need another surgery to get that removed.”
The extra level of precise planning, the engineers believe, will better help doctors find what “design results in the best function and fit for that particular patient.”
“Patients would get their imaging done, which they do anyway, and we would use that to make this system, ideally within the day,” says co-author Christopher Nguyen. “Once it’s up and running, clinicians could test different valve types and sizes and see which works best, then use that to implant.”
The heart replicas could also be used by research labs and the medical device industry as realistic platforms for testing therapies for various types of heart disease, the team said.
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