Scientists have created medical implants for children which expand in tune with their natural growth.
Children with defects in the heart or other organs have had to undergo numerous heavy-duty operations throughout their lifetime to replace their life-saving implants.
The accommodating implant designed for use in a cardiac surgical procedure called a valve annuloplasty, which repairs a leaking heart. Children who undergo life-saving cardiac surgeries, such as mitral and tricuspid valve repairs, may require several additional surgeries over the course of their childhood to re-repair or replace leaking heart valves.
The growth-accommodating implant is meant to enhance the durability of pediatric heart valve repairs and accommodating a child’s growth, decreasing the number of heart surgeries a child must endure.
Beyond cardiac repair, the research team says the tubular, expanding implant design used in their proof-of-concept could also be adapted for a variety of other growth-accommodating implants throughout the body. The implant design consists of two components: a degrading, biopolymer core and a braided, tubular sleeve that elongates over time in response to the tensile forces exerted by the surrounding growing tissue.
The polymer is made of components that exist in the human body, adjusting the polymer’s composition can tune the core to degrade predictably over a pre-determined amount of time. This concept could be adapted for many different clinical applications, with exciting potential to be converted into an actively, rather than a passively – elongating structure that could act as a tissue scaffold growth.