'Micro-bypass' device delivers fresh hope for heart patients
A REVOLUTIONARY invention is offering hope for chronic heart disease patients whose arteries are too damaged for traditional bypass surgery.
Researchers at University College Cork (UCC) have developed a pioneering new 'keyhole' device that avoids many of the risks associated with traditional bypass surgery.
The device, described as a 'vascular cell delivery system', was developed by a team led by Prof Noel Caplice in conjunction with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in the United States.
The tiny device, which resembles a needle, is inserted via a key-hole procedure up through the artery to the site of obstruction.
Once there, it promotes a so-called 'micro-bypass' of the artery obstruction over a four -week period through the delivery of 'healing' cells.
Trials in animals have shown that the return of normal heart function and a recovery of full exercise capacity can be achieved within four to six weeks.
Because it is minimally invasive, no major stress is exerted on the patient's compromised heart and arteries, unlike in traditional open heart surgery.
If adopted in commercial form, the device will offer heart surgeons a low-risk 'keyhole' surgery alternative to traditional heart bypass operations.
Heart disease remains the single greatest killer on the planet.
One in five patients who require cardiac bypass surgery cannot undergo the procedure because their arteries are too damaged, with the risk posed by the operation deemed too great for survival.
It is estimated that over three million open heart coronary bypass procedures are now carried out each year - with the new Irish invention offering hope for an estimated 500,000 patients who have complex case symptoms.
Prof Caplice, who is director of UCC's cardiovascular sciences centre, said early trials of the tiny device in animals have proved very exciting.
"If reproduced in humans this device would offer an alternative to open surgical bypass operations with implications for treatment of patients who are currently inoperable," he said.
"It also has the potential to reduce costs and the time spent in hospital," he added.
The UCC/Mayo Clinic team now hopes to test the technology over the coming years on patients who require bypass surgery but would otherwise be deemed unfit for surgical intervention.
"We anticipate that this work could be completed over the next three to five years," he said.
Details of Prof Caplice's work with the Mayo Clinic has been published in the prestigious medical journal, 'BioMaterials'.