• Development of patient-specific paediatric 3D printed vascular stents for aortic coarctation

    2020 marked the start of 5 new paediatric research projects funded by the National Children’s Research Centre and Children’s Health Foundation, Crumlin. Dr. Eoin O’Cearbhaill (UCD, Principal Investigator), Prof. Colin McMahon (CHI at Crumlin, co-PI), Dr. William Ronan (NUIG, co-PI), and Professor Kevin Walsh (CHI at Crumlin, co-PI) received funding for their project “Development of patient-specific bioresorbable paediatric 3D printed vascular stents for the treatment of aortic coarctation”.

    What research problem does this project aim to address?

    Aortic coarctation is a condition, usually present from birth, where the aorta – the body’s largest blood vessel – is narrowed. This causes insufficient blood flow to the lower body and can lead to heart failure if not treated promptly. Current treatments include open surgical repair or less invasive stent delivery to open the narrowing. Stenting is preferred in children and adolescents when possible; however highly variable anatomy, lack of stent growth and the need for reintervention means current designs are limited. We propose that 3D-printed stent bioresorbable stents with patient-specific designs could lead to improved outcomes for these patients.

    What is your proposed approach to solving this problem?

    We aim to develop a reliable method of 3D printing bespoke stents for individual patients. We will use patients’ scans to make digital models of their aortas and use these to design patient-specific stents. Working with suitable materials and novel tools for printing stents, we will ensure that they are designed to be strong enough to open narrowings in the aorta and contoured to give a perfect fit. Our stents will also be “bioresorbable” – they will be absorbed by the body as the child grows, so there will be reduced risk of complications if future surgeries are required.

    How will this research impact on child health?

    The novel bioresorbable stents would allow in some cases to replace the surgical repair of the aortic coarctation with a minimal invasive procedure that uses catheter and stent. Use of the stent will result in a quicker recovery of the patient after the intervention and prevent possible complications caused by the aortic obstruction like high blood pressure, disturbance of the blood flow in the thoracic aorta and decreased blood supply of the lower body. The use of bioresorbable material for the stent would reduce the need for and complexity of reintervention procedures.