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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S030182/1
Title: Design and direct metal laser sintering of replacement heart valves
Principal Investigator: Bressloff, Professor NW
Other Investigators:
Curzen, Professor N
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2019 Ends: 30 September 2022 Value (£): 474,978
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design & Testing Technology Manufacturing Machine & Plant
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Apr 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 9 and 10 April 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Degenerative heart valve disease is a growing problem in the ageing populations of Europe and North America. Further, tens of millions of both young and old people experience valve failure from bacterial infections in low- and middle-income countries such as those in South Asia and Africa.

The current state of the art for the treatment of heart valve disease is rapidly moving towards transcatheter approaches, seeking to deploy replacement valves comprising frames that are laser cut from metallic tubes. However, to develop new valve concepts that can better address existing and emerging challenges globally, alternative manufacturing methods will likely be necessary. In response to this opportunity, we successfully conducted a preliminary pilot study involving additive manufacturing of valve frames using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). In so doing, we have demonstrated the feasibility of 3D printing these type of thin strut structures.

Now, it is necessary to fundamentally optimise and assess the DMLS manufacturing process for replacement heart valve frames. World-leading facilities will be used for DMLS at both partner sites. A Concept Laser machine has been operated for over three years in the Engineering Design Manufacturing Centre at the University of Southampton and the Italian industry partner, Sisma, which actually manufactures its own high precision DMLS machines which will be used by specialists within the company. Consequently, Sisma will provide the necessary expertise in additive manufacturing, something that will be invaluable for the small, thin features of heart valve frames. Also, the project will significantly benefit from the Mu-Vis Imaging Centre at the University of Southampton in which high resolution scans of the frames will help to determine manufacturing precision, accuracy and quality.

Once the manufacturing process has been optimised, it will be used to manufacture and test two new frame concepts, both made possible by the additive nature of 3D printing. One of the frames will be based on patented intellectual property for a radially layered frame that produces zero change of length during deployment. The second frame will feature a concept that was devised in a Masters project at the University that came to an end in September 2018. This second concept aims to overcome the problems associated with the need to replace a previously deployed prosthetic valve that has started to fail. This can happen when prosthetic leaflets degenerate in similar ways to native valves. Currently, standard replacement valves are used in a procedure know as valve-in-valve which doesn't involve a device specifically designed for such redo procedures.

In addition to these engineering tasks, we have a strong focus on our pathway to impact, particularly in relation to the contrasting needs of heart valve patients in both developed and low- and middle-income countries.

At the end of the project, we will have (i) a detailed understanding of optimal settings for maximum precision, accuracy and structural integrity of metal sintered valve frames and (ii) developed two novel device concepts made possible by additive manufacturing one of which will be specifically designed for treating young patients across all territories of the world.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk