But until now, the use of medical implants in children has been complicated by the fact that fixed-size implants cannot expand in tune with a child’s natural growth.
To address this unmet surgical need, a team of researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a growth-accommodating implant designed for use in a cardiac surgical procedure called a valve annuloplasty, which repairs leaking mitral and tricuspid valves in the heart.
The proprietary design of the braided sleeve developed by del Nido and Karp's team doesn't just share resemblance to a Chinese finger trap but also to an organic structure engineered by nature itself.
"We solved this problem of growth accommodation with a concept that already exists in nature: the octopus has a special ability to stretch its arms into confined cracks and spaces between rocks, in search of its prey," says Yuhan Lee, Ph D, co-first author on the study and a materials researcher at BWH.
The proprietary design of the braided sleeve developed by del Nido and Karp’s team doesn’t just share resemblance to a Chinese finger trap but also to an organic structure engineered by nature itself.
After vetting many different concepts for a growth-accommodating implant, the team took its inspiration from the braided, expanding design of a Chinese finger trap, selecting their first proof-of-concept to be a tricuspid valve annuloplasty ring implant.
“So, we’ve created an environment here where individuals with expertise and interest in medical devices can come together and collaborate towards developing materials for pediatric surgery.” For this research, del Nido partnered with Jeff Karp, Ph D, a bioengineer and principal investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and an associate professor of medicine at HMS, bringing his laboratory’s expertise in chemical engineering and biopolymer materials into the mix.
“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,” says Eric Feins, MD, co-first author on the paper, who was formerly a research fellow in del Nido’s lab and is currently a fellow in cardiothoracic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The novel growth-accommodating implant is meant to enhance the durability of pediatric heart valve repairs while also 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 -- reported in -- could also be adapted for a variety of other growth-accommodating implants throughout the body.
Scientists have worked for many years to refine the technique of DNA origami.