A recent publication in the journal Cardiovascular Engineering and Technology describes the production and utilization of synthetic heart valves, arteries, and veins by surgeons and medical residents to practice and improve their cardiac bypass surgical skills, without the use of animal or human cadaver tissues. Researchers from the University of British Columbia used a polyvinyl alcohol hydrogel to create the synthetic tissue, which unlike animal and human tissues, does not decompose or become contaminated.
The treatment of arteries from animal or human cadavers with preservatives to prevent decomposition alters their texture and pliability. As such, practicing surgical bypass techniques using such tissues is not ideal, since they handle differently than live human tissues. In contrast, the novel synthetic tissue is engineered to mimic live human tissue, thereby improving the experience of surgeons and medical residents when practicing cardiac bypass procedures.
Moreover, the safe and economic production of this material enables ready access to practice tissue and facilitates the ability of physicians to practice their surgical techniques almost anywhere. The synthetic tissue has already been adopted as a teaching tool by physicians at the Kelowna General Hospital, with the intention of providing a more realistic surgical practice device to prepare physicians for cardiac surgery in the operating room.