Professors Kim Ki-beom, Kim Yong-jin and Lim Hong-kook at the Seoul National University Hospital announced on March 14 that they developed an artificial tissue-based heart valve with minimum immune rejection through a special treatment of an artificial heart valve using the pericardial tissue of a pig and succeeded in applying it to the human body.
The team transplanted the artificial valve into a pulmonary valve part of a female patient with a congenital heart disease on February 25. The pulmonary valve blocks the backflow of blood toward the right ventricle when the right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs. The female patient was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot when young and underwent operations for pulmonary artery expansion. However, her pulmonary valve was malfunctioning and her blood was flowing backwards to the right ventricle. The backflow disappeared immediately after the transplantation though, and she left the hospital without any complications four days after the transplantation.
The artificial valve was developed by the pericardial tissue of a pig being immunized and chemically fixed through multiple stages for immune rejection minimization and then being processed into three strands of valve tissues identical to the human heart valve. The team employed the Nitinol stent, developed by Taewoong Medical and itself, in order to transplant the artificial valve without opening the chest. The Nitinol stent surrounding a valve is a self-expanding one and can cover a large diameter, which means even patients with a wide pulmonary artery can benefit from it.
“Stents and artificial valves specialized for the treatment of pulmonary valve diseases are still in the development stage worldwide,” professor Kim Ki-beom explained, continuing, “We expect that this transplantation operation will be beneficial for patients with that type of diseases as it entails no immune rejection while allowing the durable valve to be transplanted through a simple operation.”
The research team is planning to use it on a commercial scale after transplanting the valve to nine more patients. In addition, the application of the valve is planned to be expanded to cover every type of valve not limited to pulmonary artery valves.