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Reducing blood clots in artificial hearts

Dr Anna Waterhouse, Institution: University of Sydney

2019 Vanguard Grant

Years funded: 2020-2021


Artificial hearts replace the function of failing hearts and are used when transplantation is not possible or available. However, artificial hearts cause contradicting complications: blood clots and bleeding. This is because blood sticks to the surfaces of the machine causing blood clots, and blood is subjected to areas of stasis (where blood stops flowing) and areas of extremely high flow, both of which also cause blood clots. To prevent this, patients have to receive blood thinning drugs, however, these cause bleeding, resulting in high medical costs and fatal complications. These drugs are not effective against blood clots caused by materials or disturbed blood flow conditions. A specific approach that combines an improved material and an improved drug strategy is urgently needed.

We have developed 3 new innovative approaches to reduce blood clots in artificial hearts. 1, A new slippery, surface coating that stops blood sticking to materials. 2, A new blood thinning drug that is specific for extremely high flow conditions and does not cause bleeding. 3, A new technology to measure blood clot formation on materials in real-time under the stasis and extreme high blood flow conditions found in artificial hearts. We will evaluate if the combination of the slippery coating, together with the blood thinner that is specific for high blood flow conditions, can reduce blood clots and bleeding in laboratory models of artificial hearts. If successful, this combination strategy could lead to an improved artificial heart with reduced clotting and bleeding complications. This would improve patient outcomes, reduce hospitalisation and lower medical costs. The innovations and approach could be applied to virtually any medical device that is used in the bloodstream, such as artificial heart valves and heart-lung machines, to reduce blood clots and to reduce other forms of complications e.g. microbes growing on medical devices.

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