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Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology





Despite advancements in procedures and patient care, mortality rates for neonatal recipients of the Norwood procedure, a palliation for single ventricle congenital malformations, remain high due to the use of a fixed-diameter blood shunt. In this study, a new geometrically tunable blood shunt was investigated to address limitations of the current treatment paradigm (e.g., Modified Blalock-Taussig Shunt) by allowing for controlled modulation of blood flow through the shunt to accommodate physiological changes due to the patient’s growth. First, mathematical and computational cardiovascular models were established to investigate the hemodynamic requirements of growing neonatal patients with shunts and to inform design criteria for shunt diameter changes. Then, two stages of prototyping were performed to design, build and test responsive hydrogel systems that facilitate tuning of the shunt diameter by adjusting the hydrogel’s degree of crosslinking. We examined two mechanisms to drive crosslinking: infusion of chemical crosslinking agents and near-UV photoinitiation. The growth model showed that 15–18% increases in shunt diameter were required to accommodate growing patients’ increasing blood flow; similarly, the computational models demonstrated that blood flow magnitudes were in agreement with previous reports. These target levels of diameter increases were achieved experimentally with model hydrogel systems. We also verified that the photocrosslinkable hydrogel, composed of methacrylated dextran, was contact-nonhemolytic. These results demonstrate proof-of-concept feasibility and reflect the first steps in the development of this novel blood shunt. A tunable shunt design offers a new methodology to rebalance blood flow in this vulnerable patient population during growth and development.


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