British Columbia

UBC prof invents synthetic heart tissue that replaces human cadavers for training

A new synthetic tissue can advance medical training for heart surgeries, according to UBC engineer Dr. Hadi Mohammadi.

A new synthetic tissue can advance medical training for heart surgeries, according to Dr. Hadi Mohammadi

B.C. researchers invent synthetic heart tissue

7 years ago
Duration 0:36
New tissue should help doctors improve heart surgery skills

A synthetic heart valve created by a UBC Okanagan professor could change the face of training for major heart surgeries.

UBC engineer Dr. Hadi Mohammadi has invented synthetic heart valves, tissues and veins that can be used to mimic human tissue for surgical training.

The tissue is made out of polyvinyl alcohol hydrogel and allows medical students to practice procedures like bypass surgery without relying on animals or human cadavers, according to Mohammadi.

"The same set of skills used for [reconstructive surgery] can be applied on this model," said Mohammadi.

 "The training surgeon can achieve a high level of skill, confidence and expertise."

Mohammadi says the tissue could help surgeons better prepare for countless types of difficult heart surgeries.

"Some ... are very, very challenging, and even experienced surgeons are not 100 per cent certain how to proceed," Mohammadi said.
"We want to provide the technology for training surgeons in order to basically practice a difficult surgery as many times as is needed for them to learn it perfectly."

The tissue is already being used to train surgeons at Kelowna General Hospital.

Dr. Guy Fradet is the head of cardiovascular surgery at the hospital and co-invented the tissue, which he says works much better than the alternative.

The synthetic tissue could change the face of training for major heart surgeries. (UBC)

"A problem with using arteries from animals or human cadavers for practicing bypass surgery is that they feel different than living human tissue," said Fradet in a UBC press release.

"The more realistic we can make surgical practice, the easier it will be to prepare surgeons for the operating room, which can only benefit patients."

Med school and beyond

Mohammadi says the tissue hasn't been used to train students, yet — but he sees the opportunity to advance education across the board.

He says it could be used to eventually practice hands-on surgery in medical schools, and even teach high schoolers about cardiovascular disease.

He also hopes to use the technology to make entire synthetic organs, which could be used to train for more complex surgeries.

He says the advanced technology is something medical system needs, especially when medical errors are one of the leading causes of death across the U.S. and Canadian healthcare systems.

"There is a huge problem out there," said Mohammadi​

"This is something that we believe is not an option."

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