Despite significant advances in cardiology and cardiac surgery, cardiovascular disease remains one of the leading causes of death in the world. There is a persistent and growing clinical need for readily-available substitutes for heart valves and small-diameter blood vessels. Electrospinning is used for the development and manufacturing of cardiovascular implants to allow and promote cell infiltration within the scaffolds. Cells will then deposit the extracellular matrix (ECM).
Patients with failing heart valves have to face mayor challenges like open heart surgery and a second operation years later to change the implant; due to its lifetime or size mismatch in case of a young and growing patient. In the past years multiple Tissue Engineering methods have been developed by several parties to overcome these challenges.
IME Technologies’ machines are used by companies and research institutes to electrospin cardiovascular implants in the shape of heart valves. Using a rotating collector allows to generate a valve scaffold with the desired size, shape and fiber diameters. The structure and mechanical properties of these scaffolds allows them to be crimped to very small diameters, enabling the delivery of the heart valve scaffold via a minimally invasive way. With this procedure open heart surgery could be prevented in the future. Additionally the electrospun scaffold will be colonized by the patient cells, restoring the native tissue structure while the original scaffold material degrades over time. This will leave the patient with only his new living and growing tissue, making additional surgeries obsolete and reducing the amount of drugs intake for the patients.
A precise controlled electrospinning process allows to generate vascular implants with diameter in the range from several centimeters to ten(s) of millimeters. The electrospinning machines and modules for thickness measurement (also on collectors of few mm in diameter) from IME Technologies, allow the generation of vascular grafts of the desired shape, size and thickness. Vascular implants are used for patients that need to undergo dialysis, to generate an arteriovenous shunt to prevent the diseases associated with the continuous punctures of veins. Furthermore they can be applied in order to bypass a partially or fully occluded vessel.
For human application vascular grafts have a lumen diameter of a few millimeters. Depending on the application, vascular implants can be made with resorbable, non-degradable synthetic or natural polymers. Non resorbable polymers are commonly used in patients that need to undergo dialysis. A non-degradable material will remain in place providing a vascular access. In case of by-pass vascular grafts the aim is to allow and promote cell infiltration within the scaffolds. Cells will then deposit the extracellular matrix (ECM). The challenge that researchers are trying to overcome is to match the degradation time of the polymer with the deposition of newly formed ECM, in order to avoid leakage and allow the graft to withstand the blood flow pressure.