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Decreasing Complications with Mechanical Hearts

Dr Shaun Gregory, Institution: Monash University

2018 Future Leader Fellowship

Years funded: 2019-2022


With a prevalence of over 23 million worldwide, heart failure is a global epidemic. Despite the huge demand for donor hearts, there are less than 100 implanted per year throughout Australia. Mechanical hearts, also known as ventricular assist devices (VADs), are small mechanical pumps used to support a patient's circulation until a donor heart is available.

Although VADs have supported patients for over seven years in Australia and a decade in the USA, they are riddled with complications. Three of the most significant complications with VADs are postoperative bleeding, infection and arrhythmias, and are related to the out-of-date implantation mechanisms, skin-crossing power cable (driveline), and the lack of a 'smart' device that responds to the patient's requirements.

This project aims to develop and evaluate three novel concepts to reduce complications with VADs: a suture-less and less-invasive VAD implantation mechanism to reduce bleeding; a '3D-printed' scaffold coating to reduce driveline infection; and a 'smart' control system to detect patient activity and automatically adjust VAD performance to reduce arrhythmias. With a team of engineers, biological scientists and clinicians, I will lead the development of each device and complete extensive laboratory evaluation before progressing to pre-clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. This research will be completed between Monash University, The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, the Alfred Hospital, and the Critical Care Research Group. The combination of these three world-class facilities provides a wealth of expertise and state-of-the-art facilities that will be vital to this project.

The novel concepts developed in this research will allow superior VAD support with reduced complications. This project will likely see improved patient outcomes for those suffering from heart failure, and associated reduction in healthcare costs throughout Australia.

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