Prof. Catríona Lally: Made to measure – 3D printed paediatric stents

Prof. Caitríona Lally is a Professor of Bioengineering within the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and Principal Investigator in the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering (TCBE) in Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

Caitríona and Prof. Damien Kenny (CHI at Crumlin) are funded through the National Children’s Research Centre Innovation Award scheme to work on a project “3D printing patient specific nitinol stents for paediatric patients (3DP4Paeds)”.

One in 100 children in Ireland are born with a structural defect in their heart. These children may require the implantation of a stent if they have a stenotic lesion (a narrowing of the blood vessel) that reduces the flow of blood through the heart.

Stents are predominantly manufactured for adults with acquired heart disease. As such, the use of stents in children with congenital heart disease often requires the modification of stents approved for use in adults, which can limit their safety and effectiveness.

Caitríona is attempting to develop a technique for producing patient-specific stents. This production of patient-specific stents is a very relevant approach for children with congenital heart disease as they typically present with a wide range of structural defects that are often unique and highly complex.

Caitríona plans to use medical imaging techniques to map the specific anatomy of the patient’s heart and then use 3D metal printing to produce a stent that matches the shape of the patient’s structural defect. This stent will be printed from Nitinol, an extremely flexible alloy made of nickel and titanium. Due to its flexibility, stents can be designed to conform to the specific shape of the patients’ structural defect.

If successful, the overall safety, effectiveness and long-term performance of paediatric stents would be significantly improved using the techniques developed within this project. This would limit the need for stents to be modified and ensure an optimum long-term outcome by reducing the risk of tissue damage by the stent.