Inventing a stent to treat a serious heart condition

Inventing a stent to treat a serious heart condition

Actress Lucille Ball died from this condition. So did Alan Thicke and John Ritter.

It’s called aortic dissection, an uncommon but deadly disorder that occurs when the lining of the aorta tears, preventing the main artery from carrying oxygen to vital organs. In serious cases, the aorta can rupture, causing sudden death.

If this condition takes place in the ascending aorta, the area just above the heart, open heart surgery is necessary to replace the damaged anatomy with a tube.

“This is a tough operation for anyone to undergo. We usually need 20 to 30 units of blood product to get through it,” said David Cable, MD, a cardiac and thoracic surgeon with OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute in Rockford. “Some people are just too sick for such a difficult surgery.”

As of now, there are no stents on the market to fit the large cane-shaped curve of the aorta that could allow for a less invasive operation. Understanding this need, Dr. Cable came up with an idea for a new stent that could one day treat this heart problem.

The device is designed to conform to a patient’s unique anatomy and can be inserted through the leg or chest. Now, Dr. Cable is working with the Office of Innovation Management (OIM), a part of OSF Innovation, to take this concept through the commercialization process in hopes of benefitting patients everywhere.

A long journey

Dr. Cable actually came up with this idea 15 years ago, before he started practicing with OSF. In 2018, he was introduced to the Office of Innovation Management (OIM), the intake center for innovative ideas across the Ministry. OIM agreed to take on the opportunity.

Since then, a provisional patent for his concept has been filed. An outside engineering company has helped design a low-cost prototype for the stent. A study on the overall market opportunity is underway. And the OIM is in the process of filing a full patent in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

“It’s a slow process, but I think we’ve been diligent in going one step at a time in this process,” Dr. Cable said. “Had we brought this idea to the medical community 15 years ago, people would have looked at us like we were crazy. Now surgeons are asking why this type of stent isn’t available yet.”

The OIM has been responsible for helping move this concept forward, using academic partnerships, internal and external engineers and expertise from the broader OSF community. The team is now looking into the willingness of others to adapt this technology.

It’s also working to determine whether changes need to be made to the stent from an end-user perspective and if medical device companies might be interested in licensing the device.

“We know the development of a novel medical device can be a long but fulfilling process,” said Kip McCoy, vice president of OSF Innovation Integration. “We want to get it to a point where a company in this space would be interested in acquiring or licensing the intellectual property to ultimately bring it to market.”

The process is still far from over. The stent will likely need to go through full FDA approval and require both animal and human clinical trials.

‘I feel fortunate’

Dr. Cable knows it could still be a few years before his stent might be available, but he’s excited about its potential.

“I feel fortunate to be associated with OSF HealthCare and work through this process because there is the potential to impact a whole population of people,” Dr. Cable said. “Even if I never see a single penny out of this effort, it would be so rewarding to see patients benefit from this device.”

For the OIM, the success of the idea could boost the health care system’s position in the medical technology space.

“We believe this could lead to better care and better outcomes for patients around the world,” Kip said. “That could encourage other clinicians inside of OSF to reach out with their ideas, and we would then have the chance to work with them to help develop their ideas into new inventions and opportunities going forward.”

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