Lighting the way for higher quality heart valves

12 July 2018
Polarimeter
The polarimeter, a device which is at the heart of the optical technology that Alex is working on

Valvular heart disease is a common heart condition which stops the heart from effectively pumping blood. It happens when valves connecting the chambers of the heart become diseased or damaged. A common treatment is to replace these valves with artificial heart valves constructed from biologically derived soft tissue materials such as those from the sac covering cows’ hearts (i.e. bovine pericardium).

However, approximately half the patients who undergo this procedure suffer from complications 10 years after the replacement. A better tissue selection protocol can reduce these complications, says Alex Dixon, a PhD student at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. Alex’s PhD, which is supervised by Professors Poul Nielsen, Martyn Nash and Associate Professor Andrew Taberner, focuses on developing new optical technology which can improve the quality of tissue selected to make artificial heart valves. Alex recently received the prestigious Todd Foundation Award for Excellence which contributes $8000 towards equipment cost for his research.

The award encourages the development of new concepts, technology or research that will benefit  Aotearoa New Zealand.