The traditional image of the heart’s pumping function is that is squeezes the blood out into the circulatory system.

New research has shown that the mitral valve, which is to prevent the blood from flowing back from the left ventricle to the left atrium, also moves up and down and works as a piston. This up-and-down motion accounts for around two thirds of the volume that the heart pumps out.

For patients affected by heart failure, the piston motion is severely reduced, which means that each heartbeat does not produce the effect needed. The body does not get sufficient oxygen and nourishment and this leads to low energy, swollen legs, damage to other organs and ultimately death.

Reinforces the remaining function

“What we do with our product is to preserve and improve the remaining function in the movement of the mitral valve. This is mechanical augmentation which, simply put, consists of a ’helping engine’ that ’nudges the valve along’ in both directions – approximately like the motor on an electric bicycle facilitates pedalling”, says Daniel Engvall, project manager and technical manager at the medtech company Syntach. Having developed the very first functional prototype, Syntach is now in the process of producing a new generation and will then start animal experimentation.

Syntach has a global patent on its product.

“Now we are moving forward with the production of a complete product that can be used in experiments on animals, which we can reasonably expect to manage during 2018–2019” says Daniel Engvall.

Reinforces the heart’s function

Competition consists of heart transplants and mechanical pumps.

“But there is a great shortage of donors and in Sweden only around 50 transplants are performed per year. Around the same number of patients get a pump, but few survive two years after the surgery, as the pump is associated with many complications, including stroke and infections. Our product is better inasmuch as it functions in a completely different way. It does not replace anything, but rather reinforces existing function”, says Jan Otto Solem.

Now Syntach is working on getting closer to a clinical product and attracting necessary investment for further product development and clinical studies.

Text: Jörgen Olsson

Updated: 18 December 2017

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