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UCLA engineering and Mattel Children's Hospital collaborate to develop children's heart valve

Children with congenital heart defects may soon have an alternative to invasive open heart surgery that will mean less time in the hospital, a quicker recovery and no need to break open the breastbone, thanks to a new collaboration between researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and pediatric cardiologists at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA.

Using a super-elastic, shape-memory metal alloy called "thin film nitinol," UCLA engineers are developing a collapsible heart valve for children that can be loaded into a catheter, inserted into a vein in the groin area, guided into place and then deployed in a precise location within the heart. As the valve is released from the catheter, it springs back to its original shape and begins to function.

"What is really novel about the valve UCLA Engineering has created is the memory retaining alloy and butterfly design that opens or hinges from the middle of the valve rather than the edges," said UCLA mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Gregory Carman, who, along with UCLA researcher Lenka Stepan, crafted the valve. "The unobtrusive leaflets within the valve mean there is no obstruction to blood flow. This smaller, low-profile design is well suited for children and, over time, will potentially allow children born with heart valve defects to experience less pain and live much fuller lives."

Dr. Daniel Levi, assistant professor of pediatric cardiology at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, designed the valve and joined Carman and Stepan to create and develop the revolutionary new device.

"Using catheters and collapsible valves, heart valves can be replaced without stopping the heart, without cutting the chest open and without long recovery times," Levi said. "This will represent a huge improvement in care for children living with a very difficult condition."

A defective heart valve fails to fully open or close, letting blood leak back into th
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Contact: Melissa Abraham
mabraham@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0540
University of California - Los Angeles
13-Feb-2006


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