Across Europe, around ten million people suffer from severe heart failure. Many of these patients are dependent on a donor heart, but suitable organs are rare. Alternatives such as artificial hearts (TAH – Total Artificial Heart) and ventricular assist devices (VAD – Ventricular Assist Devices) have established themselves as life-saving technologies; with them the survival rate is almost 70 percent. However, comorbidities and inadequate biocompatibility of materials sometimes cause dangerous complications such as bleeding, infections or stroke. Increasing the biocompatibility of the systems significantly reduces the risks of rejection caused by immune reactions and eliminates the need for costly drug treatments. This improves the life prospects of up to 14,000 seriously ill heart patients per year.
The interdisciplinary research project "Heart 2.0" aims to minimize such complications by developing a so-called "active interface system" inserted inside TAHs and VADs. To this end, the project is combining innovative concepts from molecular engineering, bio- and nanotechnology, surface engineering and fluid dynamics.
The active interface system being developed in the "Heart 2.0" research project consists of three hierarchical stages: The first stage is a physical barrier against protein fouling and bacterial adhesion. The second stage prevents clot formation as far as possible. Should a clot nevertheless form, the third stage ensures its accelerated ejection from the artificial heart or support system.
As a partner of the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University, the Fraunhofer IPT is developing, optimizing and producing thrombophobic surfaces to prevent clots. For this purpose, periodic micro- and nanostructures are introduced into the titanium surfaces of the interfacial system by means of laser processing. These surface structures partially prevent blood particles from adhering to the TAHs and VADs, which thus reduces blood clotting. In addition, bioactive protein chains are applied to the surfaces, which can additionally dissolve thrombi and thus further reduce the risk of blood clots.
Using fluorescently labeled thrombi, the research team is testing in a miniflow chamber how well the surface structures and protein chains function. In the future, the project partners will conduct additional in vitro and later also in vivo experiments.
2022/1/1 – 2024/12/31