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Swanson School Stent Technologies Clinches Wells Competition Awards

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 9, 2020) … Two Swanson School of Engineering projects received awards at the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute’s Wells Healthcare Competition, which provides funding for students who are developing innovations related to the health care field.

Moataz Elsisy, a PhD student in the Department of Industrial Engineering, received an award for the Organ Perfusion Stent (OPS), an innovative endovascular device that seeks to increase the availability of healthy donor organs for transplant surgery.

Elsisy works in the Medical Device Manufacturing Laboratory led by Youngjae Chun, associate professor of Industrial Engineering at Pitt. The lab’s unique device targets patients who die from heart failure.

“These donors may still have healthy organs in the torso, such as the liver, kidney or pancreas,” Elsisy explained, “but the effects of heart disease may affect blood flow and damage these potentially life-saving organs.”

The OPS aims to minimize cardiac burden by separating aortic blood flow into two different chambers -- one for cardiac flow and another for oxygenated blood flow from an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) system. The device would significantly increase the number of available organs from the cardiac death donors, eliminating any potential organ blood shortage complications.

“Our device increases the number of available healthy organs to those who are in desperate need for transplantation,” said Elsisy. “The device will save health care costs up to $1.2 million per donor. A single donor can take two patients off dialysis, one patient off insulin, and one patient out of the hospital for liver failure.”

He adds that the device can also enhance the quality of life for transplant receivers, as they will not require daily insulin injections or dialysis several times a week.

The second award went to Sneha Jeevan, a bioengineering senior, who works in the Soft Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory led by Jonathan Vande Geest, professor of bioengineering at Pitt. Their device hopes to address complications related to the treatment of peripheral artery disease.

“Peripheral artery disease is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs,” explained Jeevan. “It has become an increasingly serious public health issue, with 236 million people ages 40 and older world-wide being affected. It also has a large monetary cost, with insurance companies and private payers paying $21 billion annually to cover costs, including medication, physical therapy, and device reintervention.”

While stents can be used to treat the disease, these devices are not compatible with small arteries and often renarrow, particularly across joints, after they are implanted. The winning project, Biocarpet, is a flexible, drug-eluting, and biodegradable endovascular device that they hope will provide a solution to the current limitations in stent technology.

The Biocarpet combines a blend of biocompatible polymers and special thermoforming techniques that allow it to conform to any complex vascular anatomy. This advantage will reduce device kinking and restenosis, both of which occur frequently when treating PAD with current stent technologies.

“The Biocarpet’s biopolymer conformability and improved delivery method act as key differentiating factors, which will allow for reduced reintervention rates and improved patient outcomes for PAD,” Jeevan added. “Once the device is established as an effective treatment for PAD, it can potentially be used in other cardiovascular diseases, changing the way that hospitals treat arterial disease and giving patients the best possible treatment while minimizing costs.”

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Contact: Leah Russell