Prosthetic heart valve made completely of the body’s own tissue

Eight out of every 1000 children are born with a heart problem. Out of these, every fifth child needs a heart valve. While today’s mechanical or biological heart valves allow children to continue their lives, a research team at RWTH is developing a significantly more compatible heart valve that grows along with the body’s growth.

The device is made exclusively from the body’s own tissue. The team is now receiving support from the German Vodafone Charity Foundation by way of a EUR 65,000 injection of funds.

Currently when a child needs a new heart valve there are two possibilities, either a mechanical heart valve that requires blood thinning medication for life, or the biological variant (from swine) that requires regular replacement since it calcifies rapidly. A heart valve constructed from the child's own tissue is the ideal solution as it grows with the body and is biologically compatible. Heart valves of this nature also have a longer life span and reduce the number of risky operations.

The team of Dr. Stefan Jockenhövel has been researching such heart valves since 1998. The director of  “Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering” at the Clinic for Thorax, Heart and Vessel Surgery of RWTH Aachen explains: “Currently our heart valve prosthesis has attained a durability of the gel matrix that is six times greater than before”. The goal is to test the world’s first heart valve that is made exclusively of the body’s own tissue on living organisms as soon as possible.

The prosthetic heart valve made completely of the body’s own tissue is based on test tissue that have been cultivated and cloned “in vitro”. A gel produced from the patient’s own blood is added to the tissue cells. The structure of tissue and hydrogel matrix provides the basis for the creation of the heart valves in a specially developed process.


  1. Dr Said Shawkat Dr Said Shawkat United Kingdom says:

    I would like to congratulate Dr. Stefan Jockenhövel and his team on the good work they are doing and wish them success. I would like to highlight that the Development of Digital Ultrasonic Phonocardiography (DUP), which detects the early formation of clots on the mechanical heart valves, before it cause symptoms and before it appears on Echocardiography examination,  could sort out the problems he mention which are related to the thinning of the blood. It is simple test, non invasive and takes less than 10 minutes. With the tissue valve Dr. Stefan Jockenhövel and his team developing, I accept that blood thinning medication would not be necessary provided the patient does not develop heart beats irregularity.

    Dr Said Shawkat FRCS Cardiothoracic Surgeon.

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