Smart catheter for cell-based myocardial infarct therapy

Approximately 10% of the Western population will need to have an angioplasty surgery at some point due to an arrhythmia or for a heart valve replacement. These minimally invasive heart interventions are supported by a variety of intelligent imaging and sensor catheters that act like "eyes and ears" at the point of intervention. Researchers at Fraunhofer EMFT have developed a micropump implemented at the facility further so that it can be integrated into such "smart" cardiac catheters in the future. The pump could be used to transport stem cells into damaged heart tissue so that it regenerates. 

© Fraunhofer EMFT/ Bernd Müller
Silicon micropump with dimensions of 3.5x3 mm

Although the smart instruments are absolutely indispensable and life-saving, there have been few to no innovations in the last 10 years due to the often low production volumes. The request for instruments with better functionality from clinics is correspondingly high. The EU Position-II project offers a unique solution to this problem. 

In the project, 43 European companies and research institutions are working under the coordination of Phillips to establish a distributed pilot line for smart catheters and implants. In the process, the partners want to realize five demonstrators that will show the potential for innovation in existing markets or lay the foundation for opening up new markets.

As part of the project, a Fraunhofer EMFT research team is working with its partners alphaSIP, Ciber, Cicautxo, Philips, Johnson Matthey, Universidad Zaragoza, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Fundación Centro de Cirugía de Mínima Invasión Jesús Usón to develop a cell therapy catheter that transports stem cells into dead heart muscle tissue. 

The core of the catheter is a dosing unit that pumps the cells through the catheter into the heart without the pressure in the heart and the added fluidic backpressure affecting the accuracy of the dosing. This task is to be performed by an inur 5x5x0.8 mm³ piezoelectric micromembrane pump developed at Fraunhofer EMFT. For the application in cardiac catheters, the scientists have adapted the pump chamber and optimized the piezo assembly to achieve the required pressure and flow.

© Fraunhofer EMFT
alginate capsules in the thin catheter used to transport them to the heart muscle. To prevent clogging, the diameter of the catheter must be matched to the size of the capsules.
© Fraunhofer EMFT
Alginate capsules in a water-based solution. Cells can be embedded in these gel capsules and thus be protected in the heart muscle.

In order to further optimize the pumping characteristics, the limits of the drive voltage are also being investigated. In this context, the Fraunhofer EMFT research team wants to find out at what negative field strengths degradation (due to depolarization of the piezoceramic) occurs. In order to prove the stability of the pumping performance, the pumps will be characterized in detail (air and water flow with and without back pressure, influence of temperature) and the results will be compared with the estimates and calculations made during design

As part of the technology platform, the pump optimized for this project offers potential for many other biomedical applications, such as drug dosing or cell culture applications. 

Before the smart catheter can be used for real treatment, it must first be developed to product level and then undergo the necessary clinical tests for approval.



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