Researchers develop technology to produce low-cost heart valves
COIMBATORE: Researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) and Ohio State University (OSU) say they have developed a technology to produce low-cost heart valves.The new heart valves, which will be made of flexible plastic, which also contains hyaluronan, will cost half the price of an imported metal valve and not require anti-coagulation therapy. However, clinical trials and approval of the new technology is likely to take another two years.Doctors from all the three institutes announced that they have been working on a project to develop low cost replacement heart valves that are better than the existing metal and tissue-based valves and at the same reduce a patient's need for medication to prevent formation of blood clots."This is project that has been funded by both the Indian and the United States government," said Dr S Ramalingam, dean, PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research."While the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US is partly funding it, the department of biotechnology in our government is funding the rest of it," he said.Associate professor and principal investigator of Ohio State University Lakshmi Prasad Dasi will lead the US efforts, while Dr Murugesan cardiologist at PSG Hospitals will lead the Indian efforts."We aimed at creating a heart valve designed better than the existing alternatives for patients, in a low resource setting," he said."We have now designed the new valve which is made of polymeric polyethylene, which is a cheaper substance, and the design itself requires less material and is simple to manufacture," said Dasi.Heart valve replacement among the young and old alike is often required due to rheumatic heart valve disease, mitral regurgitation and other heart valve diseases. The only indigenously manufactured TTK Chitra valve is made of metal and costs Rs 22,000.The same metal valve if imported costs around Rs 45,000. "Implantation of these valves require the patient to remain on lifelong medication to prevent blood clotting. The bioprosthetic valve, made of animal tissue, costs Rs 1.5 lakh each and though it does not require anticoagulation lasts only 10 to 15 years," said Dr Murugesan."So it is not economically viable in young patients," he said. Thus they say that this new valve will have the best of both worlds."It will cost only as much as TTK Chitra valve, which is Rs 22,000, not require anticoagulation medication post-surgery and will last as long as a metal valve which is 30 to 40 years," said Dr Murugesan.Though the technology has been found, prototypes of this new valve will now be designed by Colorado State University, which is managing this international collaboration. The valve prototypes will be implanted in pigs and sheep in PSG's animal testing center as part of animal trials.If successful, clinical trials of it in humans will begin. If again found successful and approved by the Indian government, TTK Healthcare Limited has agreed to manufacture it.Doctors say at least 30,000 heart valve transplants are done in a year in India, and almost 8,000 of them use the indigenously made TTK Chitra valve."This is the only way the heart valve replacement surgery can be done under the chief minister's comprehensive health insurance scheme. They allot Rs 1.25 lakh for a heart valve replacement including valves, hospital stay, ICU and doctors fee," said Dr Murugesan.