University of Colorado Denver Assistant Professor Chris Yakacki, Department of Mechanical Engineering, working in collaboration with Jack Griffis of MedShape, Inc., and Sai Muralidhar Padala of Emory University, have received a $150,000 research grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The grant is for research that will develop and test a novel polymeric heart valve, prepared from a resilient, highly durable material with exquisite shape-memory properties. The participants anticipate applying for Phase II funding of $1,000,000.
The grant application notes that valvular heart disease is significant in the United States, prevalent in 2.5 percent of the total population (8.75 million) and 13.3 percent of adults beyond 65 years of age (5.78 million) in 2011. Replacement of diseased heart valves with man-made mechanical or bioprosthetic valves is a routine cardiac surgical procedure, yet one that is plagued with high rates of failure because of the need for anti-coagulation therapy with mechanical valves and the rapid degeneration associated with bioprosthetic valves.
"Current polymer-based heart valves do not have the necessary mechanical properties to last in such a dynamic and demanding environment," said Yakacki. "We are looking into developing a new class of polymer heart valves that exhibit strength and fatigue resistance up to ten-times greater than the current standard of materials."
Yakacki previously was the MedShape Principal Scientist and had been a co-founder of the company (known as MedShape Solutions) founded out of CU-Boulder.