Professor. Damien Kenny, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, has claimed that Ireland has firmly placed itself on the international stage when it comes to medical innovations and technology in cardiology.
Involved in researching paediatric cardiology, his smallest patient this year weighed less than 1.5kgs. He stated: “One of the areas we’re currently researching in paediatric cardiology is stents designed specifically for children. Most stents are made of metal which obviously doesn’t grow so you have a limited ability to be able to stretch the stents to a maximum diameter. We are trying to develop stents that potentially grow with the child”.
Although still in the development stages of this technology, bioresorbable materials, which will dissolve as the patient grows and allow normal function of the artery, are currently being tested that . Extensive pre-clinical testing has already been done with a view to bringing it to market in the future.
“We’re also working on a valve with growth potential for patients with valve disease who would need to have their valves replaced”, Professor Kenny said. “This procedure generally requires open heart surgery. We’re looking at using bioresorbable stents and stitching a valve inside with a particular material that will allow the patient’s own cells to either be seeded so that over time, while the scaffold is absorbed in the body, the leaflets are covered with the patient’s own natural tissue”.
Professor Kenny’s team is working with colleagues in Bristol on this collaboration and with UCD so that 3D valves can be generated to suit the specific anatomy of a patient without the need for open heart surgery, which they hope to bring to patients potentially within the next decade.
“We feel now that our techniques and outcomes are as good as anywhere else in the world. One of the major limitations holding us back from developing our unit further into a truly recognised international centre of excellence is lack of funding. Twenty years ago we were sending patients abroad for complex surgeries, but now, we’re really leading the charge with new and innovative technologies and approaches. We are moving from a point where we didn’t have this type of technology and expertise in Ireland. Now, not only do we have it, we’re able to share it with our colleagues globally. CMRF have been vital in making this all happen”, Professor Kenny concluded.