Aortic stenosis is the most common heart valve disease, it affects 2-7 per cent of people aged over 65.  If untreated, severe symptomatic aortic stenosis has a three-year survival rate of less than 30 per cent.

The Cardiovascular Collaborative Research Grants are part of $150 million the NSW Government has committed to cardiovascular disease research over a 10-year period. This project aims to develop a new generation of heart valve materials for the treatment of aortic heart valve disease.

Over the next two years, Dr Rnjak-Kovacina will conduct research into engineering silk into valve leaflets that mimic the structural, biomechanical and functional properties of native tissue, to potentially outperform current clinical standard bioprosthetic valve leaflets.

“I am really excited about this opportunity to lead a project that grew organically from our research and now brings together a world-class multidisciplinary team from multiple institutions across Sydney,” Dr Rnjak-Kovacina says.

“My team has been fine-tuning silk fabrication strategies to replicate the intricate architecture of the native valve leaflets. Through collaboration with specialists in cardiology, heart valve manufacture, and material characterisation, we aim to establish a new class of materials that can make a difference in medical practice.”

“The funding also provides a real opportunity for capacity building in Sydney and NSW. It will contribute toward establishing valve characterisation and testing infrastructure and expertise, promote academic, clinical, and industry collaboration, and contribute to placing NSW at the forefront of cardiovascular device development.”

The multidisciplinary collaborative team includes A/Prof Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina, A/Prof Bernd Gludovatz and Dr Nona Farbehi from UNSW Sydney, Prof Steven Wise, Dr Khoon Lim and Dr Anna Waterhouse from the University of Sydney, and Dr Martin Ng from Sydney Local Health District, with support from Endoluminal Sciences Pty Ltd and Tyree Institute for Health Engineering.

Read more Engineering next generation aortic valve replacement materials.

If you would like more information on our research, please contact Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina