World-first surgery uses Aussie tech to mend broken heart of US man

In a world first, a US patient has successfully received a polymer heart valve jointly developed by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and medical device company Foldax® Inc.

The revolutionary technology, called the Tria heart valve, uses a proprietary CSIRO polymer to create a valve capable of lasting decades without calcification, risk of clotting, or damage to red blood cells.

It is the first time an aortic heart valve made of polymer has ever been implanted in a patient.

The patient is recovering well following the operation in July. Find out more about the patient and the hospital that conducted the surgery.

Aortic valve disease is a congenital or age-related condition where the valve between the main pumping chamber of the heart and the body’s main artery stops functioning properly.

The World Health Organization estimates that heart valve disease affects around 30 million people in the general population of industrialised countries.

CSIRO project leader, Dr Thilak Gunatillake, said the Tria heart valve combines a patented design with CSIRO’s biopolymer material, LifePolymer™.

“This is a true example of Aussie innovation going global, with our team in Melbourne designing, developing and scaling-up the new polymer,” Dr Gunatillake said.

“Foldax now manufactures the Tria heart valve for patients around the world in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

Foldax’s Executive Chairman, Ken Charhut, said the world-first surgery represented a major milestone for the company.

“Tria heart valves are revolutionising the industry as the first and only biopolymer heart valve platform using LifePolymer material, eliminating the use of animal tissue,” Mr Charhut said.

“What makes this so different from other heart valves is that we were able to design the valve to mimic the native valve.”

Beyond heart valves, the next-generation polymer has other potential uses such as coatings for stents, vascular grafts or synthetic membranes for repair of ear drum ruptures.

CSIRO’s Deputy Director of Manufacturing, Dr Paul Savage, said the Tria heart valve is the latest in a long list of innovative polymers developed by CSIRO.

“From polymer bank notes and extended wear contact lenses to life-changing biomedical applications like Elast-Eon™ which is used in cardiac pace makers implanted in over 10 million people worldwide, CSIRO uses innovative new materials to solve the greatest challenges,” Dr Savage said.

The CSIRO team is in discussion with potential industry and research partners to translate the technology into further applications.

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