Every year, cardiovascular disease kills more than 17 million people worldwide. It is estimated that the number could even rise to more than 23 million cases by 2030. The question of how to prolong the lives of people with such a condition is also high on the agenda of textile research, as demonstrated by a new development honored with the Techtextil Innovation Award 2022 in the “New Product” category: a woven heart valve that requires no reassembly. It was developed by the Institute of Textile Machinery and High Performance Material Technology (ITM) at the Technische Universität Dresden in collaboration with medical device manufacturers and heart surgeons from the Cardiovascular Center Würzburg and the Universitätsklinikum Würzburg.
Will artificial heart valves be made of textile in the future?
“This is the first woven heart valve that does not require a single seam or other joining technique,” says Dr.-Ing. Dilbar Aibibu, research group leader for bio- and medical textiles at ITM. Due to the complex geometry and function of heart valves, they could not be woven in this form until now. The vanishing achievement has now been made possible by a manufacturing technology developed in Dresden based on the Jacquard coil weaving technique. According to ITM, this makes it possible for the first time to weave tubes with built-in valves completely without sewing steps on a weaving machine. Initial trials showed the good functionality of the woven-in valves. The results were an excellent basis for the further development of woven heart valves.
If patients need a heart valve replacement today, they usually receive artificial mechanical or biological heart valves. One disadvantage of mechanical solutions, however, is that they require lifelong anticoagulant therapy. Biological heart valves, on the other hand, have a much shorter lifespan and require a great amount of manual manufacturing. If ITM had its way, the woven heart valve, which won the Techtextil Innovation Award, would be a genuine alternative here in the future.
Relief for children with heart valve defects
“Our new development could also help children with valve defects in the future,” says Aibibu. “Because it grows with the heart, it can avoid the usually repeated surgical interventions for young patients.” When asked if medical textiles played a significant role in ITM’s trade fair appearance besides the award-winning heart valve, textile researcher Aibibu said on the sidelines of the awards ceremony, “Major medical device manufacturers from countries all over the world regularly drop by our booth at Techtextil to learn about the latest textile materials, implants and research in the field of medical textiles.”