LifeCell Corp. has received a $500,000 Phase II small businessinnovation research grant from the National Heart, Lung andBlood Institute to improve tissue replacements for damaged ordiseased human heart valves.

LifeCell's method of cryopreserving and drying tissue is aimedat developing longer-lasting tissue and reducing thethrombolytic risks associated with the implants.

More than 100,000 heart valve replacement procedures areperformed worldwide each year. Human allograft and porcinetissue account for 5 percent and 35 percent of replacements,respectively. The others are mechanical valves.

Porcine valves have a five-to-seven-year life span becausethey eventually become calcified and rigid. There is lessinformation on human allografts, which are mainly used forpediatric replacements.

LifeCell hopes its techniques of freezing and drying willpreserve the matrix of the replacement valve and allow it toact as a template that the host's cells can repopulate. Thiswould avoid the calcification problems and take advantage ofthe greater availability of procine valves.

The grant covers human valves as well, but long-lastingporcine valves are the company's goal, said Steven Livesey, aco-founder and consultant to the company.

The Woodlands, Texas, company received a Phase I grant inDecember 1989. Privately held LifeCell has received more than$1.8 million in federal grants during the past two years todevelop improved ways of preserving heart valve tissue, humanblood for transfusion and mammalian cells for laboratoryresearch. -- Karen Bernstein

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