Tria heart valve shows potential of polymer in heart surgery

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In a world first, a US patient has successfully received an aortic heart valve made of a polymer jointly developed by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and medical device company Foldax.

heart valve
Tria heart valves are robotically manufactured at volume, providing the highest level of quality and precision, with the design also allowing for future patient customisation (Image: CSIRO)

The Tria heart valve uses a proprietary CSIRO polymer to create a valve capable of lasting decades without calcification, risk of clotting, or damage to red blood cells.

Doctors at the Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, in Michigan, implanted the flexible polymer heart valve into 68 year-old Bob Murley, who is said to be recovering well following the operation in July.

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According to CSIRO, aortic valve disease is a congenital or age-related condition where the valve between the main pumping chamber of the heart and the body’s main artery stops functioning properly. The World Health Organisation estimates that heart valve disease affects around 30 million people in the general population of industrialised countries.

CSIRO project leader, Dr Thilak Gunatillake, said the Tria heart valve combines a patented design with LifePolymer, CSIRO’s biopolymer material.

“This is a true example of Aussie innovation going global, with our team in Melbourne designing, developing and scaling-up the new polymer," said Dr Gunatillake. “Foldax now manufactures the Tria heart valve for patients around the world in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

“Tria heart valves are revolutionising the industry as the first and only biopolymer heart valve platform using LifePolymer material, eliminating the use of animal tissue,” said Foldax’s executive chairman, Ken Charhut. “What makes this so different from other heart valves is that we were able to design the valve to mimic the native valve.”

Beyond heart valves, the next-generation polymer has other potential uses such as coatings for stents, vascular grafts or synthetic membranes for repair of ear drum ruptures.

The CSIRO team is in discussion with potential industry and research partners to translate the technology into further applications.