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The forefront of heart engineering

by Mina Mazumder October 9, 2018
The forefront of heart engineering

Cardiovascular lab improving the performance of medical devices.


Creating heart replicas to help doctors better explain cardiological issues is one of the many efforts of student researchers at the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Fluid Dynamics to enrich the practice of medicine.

Lyes Kadem, a professor of industrial engineering at Concordia and the director of the department’s laboratory, showed his team’s latest advancements in their research project to The Concordian on Oct. 3. “All of the systems we have are the most unique around the world,” Kadem said. “Whatever you are doing on a patient [who is dealing with a heart problem], you can do it on our simulators.”

These advancements, which include three innovative simulators, are given human names so researchers can better familiarize themselves with them. These simulators test mainstream health devices that tackle cardiovascular issues used by medical device companies.

Kadem and his collaborator Dr. Tsz Ho Kwok, an expert in additive manufacturing, hired fourth-year mechanical engineering students to help further projects in his research lab. Kadem explained that all of the simulators have been constructed and designed by undergraduate students. They use fused deposition modeling technology, which is commonly used for modeling, prototyping, production applications, and creating human heart replicas.

These 3D-printed models are then used as part of the Compact Heart for Realistic Interactive Simulation (CHRIS) simulator to test products that tackle most cardiovascular diseases, but typically heart valve disease.

According to Kadem, students replicate hearts to test the performance of medical devices to make sure they can successfully fix cardiovascular issues. When testing products that will soon be on the market, researchers must ask themselves critical questions: “Is this product doing the right job?” and “Will it affect red blood cells?”

Kadem and his team collaborate with doctors in the pediatric-cardiology department at the St-Justine Hospital. Kadem’s team makes heart models and donate them to help healthcare professionals better articulate certain issues to their patients.

“They face a problem explaining to parents the heart issues and pathologies that their children have,” Kadem said. He added that doctors use drawings to explain the heart conditions, but they aren’t as tangible as 3D models. Kadem hopes that, by donating the models his researchers use for CHRIS, it will help children better understand the issues they are facing. According to Kadem, although the models are not the standard, they are gaining popularity.

The second simulator, the Simulation Through In-vitro Testing on the Complete Heart (STITCH), tests devices that aim to improve issues related to the left-ventricle. “We use [STITCH] to measure how the flow behaves inside the healthy heart, and then we can change the conditions to make STITCH sick, [to assess the before and after],” he said. However, STITCH is not appropriate to test devices for all patients. “[For] some patients with a weird aorta, the device will be risky [to their health].”

Finally, the Ongoing Search to Counteract Aortic Rupture (OSCAR) is a crash-test simulator, which assesses how the heart reacts to accidents that put it at risk. “The idea is to try to simulate what happens to the human body in case of [a] car-crash,” Kadem said.

This simulator will help patients in two different ways, Kadem explained. Not only does it facilitate the testing of airbags, but it also addresses how one can minimize the risk to their heart if a crash does occur.

Kadem said these simulators advance current knowledge in cardiovascular flows and medical devices, but also to give companies a space to test their products, so they can save money and advance their products to better assess patients who need immediate health support.

Photo by Hannah Ewen.

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