Newswise — Heart patients may experience "a lot less" trauma with a new invention to mend leaky valves with minimum cutting, says inventor James Gammie, MD, an associate professor at the University of Maryland (UM) School of Medicine.

Gammie is the winner of the 2011 BioMaryland LIFE Prize for the most promising technology from the University, which was presented at the annual joint meeting of the UM Baltimore Commercial Advisory Board and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Alliance for Science and Technology Development.

With the new technology, patients will have a 24-hour hospital stay instead of a weeklong stay, says Gammie. "We anticipate a much better experience for the patient, being able to go back to playing golf, for example, a few days later instead of six weeks later with conventional open heart surgery," says Gammie. The new technology "will make the treatment for heart valve disease much more palatable for patients with a lot less trauma," he says.

In addition to being honored for the invention of improved mitral valve repair, and for ýan entrepreneurial initiative of a startup company, Gammie's lab in the School's Division of Cardiac Surgery received a $50,000 grant, as did the winning technology from JHU.

Mitral valve repair is an open chest surgery requiring either replacement of the valve or repair of the cords that prevent harmful regurgitating of blood.

In a conventional heart valve repair, surgeons stop the heart while the patient is on a heart bypass machine, and crack open the chest or make an incision between the ribs. The new minimally invasive mitral heart valve repair is more time- and cost-efficient, says Gammie.

"With our invention, we make a 1-inch incision between the ribs while the heart is beating, and use image [echocardiographic] guidance to place sutures, etc.," Gammie says. The challenge, he says, is performing the operation while the heart is beating and reliably securing a new cord on a valve within the heart. "That is where we think we have come up with something," he says.

The new operation can shave six or seven days off the hospital stay, eliminate the cost of using a heart-lung machine, and bypass an intensive care unit. "Obviously all of the cost savings will be appreciated by patients, insurance payers, and society for the treatment of this disease process," Gammie says.

In his clinical and research work, Gammie has focused on the surgical treatment of heart valve disease. He performs more than 200 mitral valve operations per year and is part of a cardiac surgery team that handles more than 1,000 open heart cases each year.

In related work, Gammie has refined a radically different beating-heart procedure for the treatment of aortic stenosis. Inventors from both universities presented a total of more than 20 technologies to an audience of 120 investors and advisors from the venture capital and biopharmaceutical industries at the annual joint meeting. Co-inventors of the device are Rahul S. Patel, MD, and Mehrdad Ghoreishi, MD, both also with the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The researchers have worked on the technology for the past six years.

The winner of the Johns Hopkins 2011 BioMaryland LIFE Prize for the most promising technology is Sara Sukumar, PhD, co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, for inventing methylated gene biomarkers, which can better predict how patients whose breast cancers are estrogen receptor (ER) negative will respond to various treatments.