Reducing blood clot formation on implantable medical devices

Reducing blood clot formation on implantable medical devices

2022_04
A dynamic team of researchers from Sydney University are working to develop next generation surface coatings that reduce the risk of blood clots forming on implantable medical devices used to treat cardiovascular diseases.

For people living with heart and blood vessel disorders, medical devices can improve or extend their lives, however these devices can also cause blood clots resulting in device failure, or the clots can break off, causing other life-threatening complications, like a stroke. Blood thinning treatments can help prevent clots but increase bleeding risks in patients.

Dr Anna Waterhouse, head of the Cardiovascular Medical Devices Group, and her team are investigating how the material properties of blood contacting medical devices influence blood clot formation.

“By understanding the blood clotting processes on materials better, we can potentially give patients drugs to break down clots or avoid scenarios where blood clots break off from medical devices,” said Dr Waterhouse. “Ideally, we aim to modify the material surface properties of medical devices to significantly reduce clotting risks and reliance on anti-clotting therapies.”

Keen to develop a micro system to mimic blood flow conditions inside a medical device that would also allow her team to manipulate material properties for their experiments, Dr Waterhouse contacted the microfluidic experts at the South Australian node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF-SA).

Her timing was impeccable, with Dr Waterhouse discovering that ANFF-SA’s free four-day Microengineering Winter School could provide her research assistant, Sally Gao, with the innovative fabrication skills her team required to develop their novel microfluidic device.

Dr Waterhouse also learned that ANFF-SA’s expertise in Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modelling could help optimise the design of their microfluidic device prior to fabrication and inform their experimental parameters.

“We have demonstrated that material wettability plays a role in influencing the density of the blood clots which form,” said Dr Waterhouse. “Our research suggests we can modify the material surface properties to modify the clot structure formed, so materials could be made to reduce the risk of clots breaking off and lodging in other organs.”

Access to ANFF’s wide network enabled Dr Waterhouse to optimise their manufacturing process and rapidly prototype their microfluidic device with access to cutting-edge maskless aligners and photolithography equipment.

An open access facility for researchers, academics and industry, ANFF-SA is co-located at the University of South Australia and Flinders University.

Specialising in microfluidics, organic electronics, biomaterials, novel semiconductor materials and characterization, ANFF-SA supports excellence in world-class science research and collaboration. Find out how ANFF-SA can support your research today by contacting Simon Doe on +618 8302 5226 or simon.doe@unisa.edu.au.