CVE - Research Areas
Therapies and Applications
The research group "Therapies & Applications" develops highly innovative therapeutic approaches, products and implants in the field of cardiopulmonary diseases (e.g. blood pumps, heart valve prostheses and oxygenators). The research approaches build on the findings and methods created in the basic research-oriented areas at CVE "Research & Validation" and "Modelling & Simulation". Particular attention is paid to a high degree of networking with clinical players in order to set up research projects in line with clinical needs and with regard to the entire course of therapy, always with the aim of bringing research into the clinic. The considerable number of spin-offs encourages us in this endeavor. Current challenges lie in multiple organ support and in the field of personalized medicine. Thematically, the research area is divided into three further areas: Lung, Heart and Circulatory System.
The Lung sub-division focuses on the development of extracorporeal lung support systems both in the short-term use of a heart-lung machine and for long-term support in the context of extracorporeal circulatory support (ECLS). Current research areas include the development of novel membranes to increase efficiency and minimize blood damage, the assembly and miniaturization of systems to increase the mobility of ECLS patients, and improvements in therapies in the neonatal setting.
The sub-division Heart aims at research on systems in the Heart Failure and Structural Heart. This includes the development of extracorporeal and implantable blood pumps for cardiac support as well as prosthetic heart valves. Current challenges in the field of blood pumps lie in minimizing blood damage in the low-flow range, possibly through adaptive adjustments according to the operating point. The physiological regulation of such pumps and replacement systems is also a major challenge. In the field of heart valve prostheses, advances in additive manufacturing and the challenges of personalized medicine offer areas of research, especially for catheter-based prostheses.
Circulatory System targets interventional therapies. This includes the development of stents, endovascular prostheses and catheter-based systems. There is a need for research in the area of embolism protection and in the diagnostic support of interventional procedures.
The development projects of the "Therapies & Applications" department are prepared in the best possible way for a possible transfer to the clinic and/or spin-off by considering approval issues at an early stage and by support of a broad network.
Research and Validation
The group “Research & Validation” evaluates the interaction between biological and technical systems for cardiopulmonary applications in vitro. An interdisciplinary team consisting of mechanical and electrical engineers, biotechnologists, chemists, materials scientists, and technicians develops new test benches, test methods and analysis techniques to assess biocompatibility, hydrodynamic properties, functionality and usability of such devices.
The first of three focuses is on biocompatibility and particularly hemocompatibility, which is crucial for blood-contacting medical devices. A lacking hemocompatibility can course severe complications and even the patient’s death. Hemolysis, platelet activation or coagulation are assessed in in vitro blood tests in our own blood lab. The research aims at developing, improving and standardizing new test and analysis methods and validating the transferability from animal to human blood. Furthermore, standard tests according to e.g. ISO 10993-4, ISO 7199, ISO 5840, or ASTM 1841 are performed during the development of heart valves, oxygenators or blood pumps.
The second focus is on cardiovascular modeling, which includes all in vitro tests without blood. Test benches like mock circulation loops are specifically designed to mimic the hydrodynamic performance and interaction of a device with the circulatory system. The evaluation of heart valves, heart assist devices and even total artificial hearts (TAH) additionally includes physiological feedback and autoregulation mechanisms. By means of particle image velocimetry (PIV), flow fields within the devices are analyzed optically to identify any regions of high shear, turbulences or stasis during the development process.
The third and last focus is on the validation of all testing methods and the application for training purposes. Education and training of medical students, physicians and surgeons helps to improve patient care and safety. We develop physiological training setups that allow for practicing specific interventions and procedures in the lab. Based on anatomical models, clinicians can train and test both existing but also new or modified procedures and devices prior to patient treatment. Examples are a skin model for sewing exercises, rapid prototyped patient anatomies and a pulmonary thrombectomy test bench for testing catheter handling.
The applied research of the R & V Group supports the development of new and improved cardiopulmonary medical devices and contributes to reliable and standardized in-vitro testing methods. Besides working in public and industry funded research projects we also offer material and device testing as service.
Modeling and Simulation
The group uses computational modelling, data science and machine learning in order to obtain a deeper understanding of the cardiovascular system in health and disease and translate the insights to clinic and industry. The emphasis lies on the following three topics:
- Blood modeling: Modeling of blood damage phenomena in blood-carrying medical devices such as thrombosis and hemolysis with Computational Fluid Dynamics. In addition, gas transfer (O2, CO2) modeling is investigated.
- Patient-specific medicine: Fluid and structure mechanical analyses in vascular geometries (aorta and greater vessels, cardiac chambers) and valves in order to improve clinical interventions and pave the way towards virtual clinical trials are performed. Furthermore, patient-device interaction (e.g. interaction between a patient and an ECMO) is analyzed through systems simulations using lumped parameter modeling.
- In silico for development & approval: Methods for reliable simulations in the device approval process (verification & validation, uncertainty quantification) are developed. In silico approaches are utilized to support device design and optimization.