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Engineer Develops His Own Life-Saving Heart Valve

Engineer Develops His Own Life-Saving Heart Valve

Tal Golesworthy saves own life and 23 others, by developing new heart valve implant…

A British process engineer who was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome has developed his own heart implant which has not only saved his life, but also those of 23 others, and potentially thousands worldwide. In 2001, Tal Golesworthy, from Tewkesbury, UK, was told that his aortic root had expanded to almost 5cm and was in serious danger of splitting. The diagnosis left him with only two choices; undergo surgery to implant a mechanical valve and start a course of the drug Warfarin, a blood-thinning medication that carries the risk of severe bleeding; or risk a sudden and possibly fatal heart attack.

Around 12,000 people in the UK alone are thought to have the condition which causes problems with the spine, joints, eyes and the heart. In serious cases the main arterial conduit from the heart can dilate excessively and may eventually rupture. In some case patients are offered Bentall surgery, a heart-lung bypass which involves replacing the damaged section of artery with a mechanical valve. But Golesworthy, not satisfied with these options, set about designing his own.

rapid prototype aorta valve 300x185 Engineer Develops His Own Life Saving Heart Valve

Artifical Aorta Valve Developed by Tal Golesworthy

He realize the by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer aided design (CAD) he could develop a custom-made valve to keep his aorta in place. With little time to develop the device, Golesworthy turned to Prof Tom Treasure, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Guy’s Hospital, and Prof John Pepper, a surgeon from the Royal Brompton Hospital, for help.

Golesworthy’s concept of the device was pretty straight forward; scan the heart; use CAD to map out dimensions; then build a new valve to fit. But they quickly realized that getting accurate dimensions of the heart was not going to be easy. Because the heart is always moving, the team had to devise a scanning protocol that took images at the exact same time in the cardiac cycle to ensure consistent measurements.

Once the information had been gathered it was processed with CAD and converted in a life-size replica of the aorta. But finding the right material to create the valve wasn’t as simple as they thought it might be. The team looked into various rapid prototype (RP) techniques but quickly realized that these would not be able to produce the final model. In the end the team used RP to develop a scaffold from a standard medical polymer, polyethylene terephthalate, then they used a technique called selected laser sintering (SLS), to form a mesh over the device. The development of the new heart valve took just two years from start to finish, and in May 2004, Golesworthy became the first to receive his own implant at the Royal Brompton Hospital.

Since then 23 other patients have undergone the surgery and there are already more on the waiting list. Golesworthy hopes the technique will soon replace the Bentall procedure and could be used to treat other heart conditions.


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  1. Ellie Zolfagharifard: UK engineer develops own life-saving implant. The Engineer, 01/14/2011.
  2. Adrian Covert: One Guy Designed His Own Heart Implant and Now 23 Other People Are Using It. Gizmodo, 01/25/2011.

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