Heart patch a lifesaver
WA heart researcher Leon Neethling. Picture Ian Munro/The West Australian

It looks like a sticky note, but this thin patch saves lives instead of thoughts.

Known as CardioCel, the tissue-engineered WA invention is being used to fix heart defects, particularly in babies and children with a hole in the heart.

Now the technology could also spell a boost for the WA economy, with the ability to manufacture up to 100,000 of the patches a year for the global market from a facility in Malaga. It is due to be opened by Premier Colin Barnett today.

Made by Australian biotechnology company Admedus, the patch was developed by WA heart researcher Leon Neethling and has been used by Australian surgeons for the past few years while in limited production at Royal Perth Hospital.

The flexible patch works like human tissue to plug holes in the inner wall of the heart and allow blood to be pumped around the body. Unlike other products used to fix holes in the heart, CardioCel is coated with special chemicals to stop hardening of the surrounding tissue and the need for repeated surgery.

Professor Neethling, who founded the world's first human heart valve bank in South Africa in 1984, said the patch was sutured into place during open heart surgery.

"The major advantage of this patch is that is doesn't calcify, and specifically not in children, so this avoids the need to reoperate which is never ideal for young patients because it becomes increasingly difficult over time," he said.

"The other thing with this patch is that you see a lot of tissue remodelling, meaning the surrounding tissue penetrates the patch over time, so the patient's own cells get established inside the patch and it ends up almost part of the site, and you don't get any inflammatory response."

Professor Neethling said RPH had been able to make 2000 products a year but the new facility had the capacity to make up to 100,000 a year.

One in 100 Australian children is born with a congenital heart defect, which is the No. 1 birth abnormality.

Admedus said the patch could be used to repair a range of heart defects in patients in Australia and overseas, including in the US where heart disease claims one million lives a year.

'This avoids the need to reoperate, which is never ideal for young patients.'"


  • Leon Neethling * Researcher

The West Australian

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