The Texas Heart Institute Leads New NIH-Funded Project to Significantly Improve LVADs

HOUSTON (March 20, 2024) — The Texas Heart Institute® and its collaborators at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), North Carolina State University (NC State) and Rice University have received a four-year, $2.8 million grant award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The multi-institutional team will create and leverage innovative technologies to improve left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) — circulatory support pumps that often are implanted as an alternative to heart transplantation for many patients with end-stage heart failure.

Heart failure is a progressively worsening disease that affects approximately six million people in the United States and claims the lives of about 400,000 of those patients each year. For patients with advanced heart failure, LVADs are increasingly used as a destination therapy — a way to provide permanent mechanical cardiac support — and there is a significant need to reduce the complications commonly associated with the devices, which include infection, thrombosis (blood clotting), stroke and bleeding. The researchers involved in this new project have proposed novel engineering solutions to reduce the complications related to blood clotting and blood damage, and they hope to build a new type of LVAD that will deliver a physiological response to changes in the recipient’s activity levels — such as during exercise, rest and sleep — providing clinical outcomes comparable to those of heart transplantation.

Led by The Texas Heart Institute’s principal investigator O.H. Frazier, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and mechanical circulatory support device pioneer, co-investigator Yaxin Wang, PhD, and researchers at the collaborating institutions will bring together multiple areas of technical expertise to improve LVAD performance and outcomes. Dr. Frazier and his team in The Texas Heart Institute’s Innovative Device Engineering & Applications (IDEA) Lab will collaborate with Joseph R. Cavallaro, PhD, and his group at Rice to develop a ‘smart’ magnetically levitated (Maglev) drive system that can sense the body’s physiological changes and automatically adjust the pump speed to meet the patient’s daily output requirement, such as for exercising and sleeping. The device’s blood compatibility also is expected to be significantly increased by applying special slippery hydrophilic coatings, invented by Arun Kumar Kota, PhD and his team at NC State, to LVAD components to reduce the risk of blood clotting. Lakshmi P. Dasi, PhD and his group at Georgia Tech will use machine learning to optimize the LVAD design to decrease the risks of blood clotting and blood damage. The team also will develop a novel pump inlet design, inspired by current stent and transcatheter aortic valve technology, to remedy the common problem of clot formation where the blood flow enters the LVAD.

The teams then will combine their synergistic technologies into a new LVAD prototype device that will be tested at The Texas Heart Institute, both in a benchtop flow loop by the IDEA Lab and in preclinical models by the Center for Preclinical Surgical & Interventional Research.

The investigators predict the new LVAD will provide a greatly improved support solution for these patients, enabling them to return to a more normal daily life and significantly boosting their capacity for activity through the ‘smart’ Maglev drive technology.

This LVAD also would greatly reduce the complications associated with long-term mechanical circulatory support, improving the quality of life for patients with end-stage heart failure and providing outcomes that are no longer inferior to those of heart transplantation.

“We believe this technology will give heart failure patients opportunities to embrace exercise again by integrating the control algorithms to the Maglev drive system to sense the body’s physiological changes,” said Dr. Wang. “I am excited to work with such diverse interdisciplinary research teams from different research institutes and hope the combined synergistic technologies truly can be used to improve heart failure patients’ life quality and longevity.”

The research described above is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01HL166724. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


About The Texas Heart Institute:
The Texas Heart Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization that is improving cardiovascular health through trailblazing research, thought leadership, education, and patient care. Located within the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, and founded in 1962 by renowned cardiac surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley, The Texas Heart Institute performed the first successful heart transplant and total artificial heart implant in the United States. Since then, our physicians and surgeons remain recognized as worldwide leaders in the diagnosis and treatment of even the most complex cardiovascular conditions. Research programs at The Texas Heart Institute continue to push the boundaries of cardiovascular science by translating laboratory discovery to patient care. The Texas Heart Institute has been ranked among the top cardiovascular centers in the United States by U.S. News & World Report for more than 30 years.  @texasheartinstitute

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The Texas Heart Institute