About one percent of all infants are born with heart problems. Infants and children with malformed or missing heart valves may need multiple valve replacement surgeries throughout their lives.
Dr. Richard Hopkins and his team at the Cardiac Regenerative Surgery Research Labs (CRSRL) at Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Mo., are pioneering a technique for growing semi-autologous heart valves that could grow with a child throughout the course of his or her life. This means one surgery rather than multiple surgeries that each come with significant risk.
The CRSL team approached Delve about developing the BioReactor to help research and ultimately commercialize the process. The equipment needed to maintain sterility while supporting three distinct stages:
- Stripping away the cells from a donor valve to create a natural scaffold for tissue;
- Holding the resulting scaffold in a steady, controlled condition that enables it to absorb patient stem cells from a solution;
- Simulating a beating heart through tension and pulsing action while a continuous stream of nutrients and other media encourage the child’s stem cells to differentiate into heart valve cells.
We designed three chambers — one for each stage of the process. The largest architectural hurdle was to design the last two stages such that the valve would experience as little manipulation as possible when moving from soaking to pulsation. We designed a cap assembly that holds the valve and fits both chambers, allowing transfer with minimal touching of the valve. This cap utilizes a drive screw and seals that allow for adjustment within each of the two chambers without breaking sterility.
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