University Researcher Gets to the Heart of the Matter

A University of Birmingham researcher is combining biological science and engineering skills to help to improve understanding of heart valve repair.

Daniel Espino, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is working on a two-year British Heart Foundation-funded study which, it is hoped, will help doctors to better predict the success of surgery.

The mitral valve allows oxygenated blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle which then pumps it around the body. If the small cords connecting the valve to the heart's muscle wall become damaged, the mitral valve can fail and remedial surgery is needed. Around 5,000 such operations were performed in the UK in 2000.

Daniel, who studied for a PhD in medical physics and bio-engineering at the University of Aberdeen and is working with a heart surgeon based in the city, has developed a computer model of how healthy and failing mitral valves work. This may eventually be used to perform "virtual surgery" to assess the outcome of various types of treatment.

Daniel, aged 27, has been recognised as one of the country's most promising scientists having been among scientists and engineers chosen to present their work to MPs and invited guests at the House of Commons during National Science Week.

He was selected for the Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) for Britain event at the Commons on March 13.

Daniel said a key factor in his work was understanding the various stress points in this part of the body which the computer model was able to represent. He was "very pleased to be representing crucial heart research," he added.