When British engineer Tal Golesworthy learned his aorta was in danger of rupturing due to complications of Marfan syndrome, he decided to take an active role in his personal health by designing and creating his own cardiac implant. Marfan syndrome is a disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue, including cardiac tissue.
Upon learning of his need for surgery, Golesworthy created a custom implant using magnetic resonance images of his aorta and computer-aided drafting software. Through rapid prototyping, he was able to create an exact model of his aorta and then create a textile implant to fit it.
The team looked at a number of different processes, such as 3D embroidery, but ended up using a standard medical polymer, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in a textile solution that allowed them to form a mesh directly onto the former. The mesh weighed less than 5g, was an exact fit for the ascending aorta and could be sutured into place by the surgeon. The process, from proposal to final product, took just under two years.
’My aorta was dilating all through that period,’ said Golesworthy. ’When you’ve got the scalpel of Damocles hanging over your sternum, it motivates you into making things happen and so they do…to me it seemed like a ridiculously obvious solution. The only way to do this was with CAD and RP. It shouldn’t have taken an engineer to realize that, but it did.’
While Golesworthy was the first person to receive the implant, he wasn’t the last. His work has gone on to help an additional 23 patients who have successfully undergone the procedure, with seven more waiting to “hopefully” receive the implant in the future.