Digital modelling for an innovative implant device

Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac, senior CNRS research direc­tor at the UTC ‘s Bio­me­chan­ics and Bio­engi­neer­ing Lab­o­ra­to­ry (BMBI) and Lau­rent Lan­quetin, Head of the Flu­id Mechan­ics pro­grammes at Seg­u­la Tech­nolo­gies Group, Trappes, have decid­ed to join forces and go fur­ther in the mitral valve implant project intend­ed for the treat­ment of func­tion­al mitral insuf­fi­cien­cy. An excel­lent exam­ple of a work­ing uni­ver­si­ty-indus­try partnership. 

Once again, the adven­ture began with an e‑mail sent by Lau­rent Lan­quetin to Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac at the end of 2015, fol­lowed by a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion explain­ing what “dig­i­tal mod­el­ling in the field of flu­id bio­me­chan­ics” is, she explains.

It must be said that Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac shows a fine sense of con­ti­nu­ity in her ideas and she also enjoys the priv­i­lege of see­ing them work. She very quick­ly sug­gest­ed to Lau­rent that they work togeth­er on an intern­ship project for a stu­dent at the end of his/her stud­ies and that they select a stu­dent. The ques­tionof the sub­ject remained. “It was then, at the end ofthe con­ver­sa­tion, that I told him about an inno­v­a­tive­pro­ject that we were work­ing on and which could there­fore appeal to them. I pro­posed to mod­el the dynam­ics of a mitral valve and even­tu­al­ly the inser­tion of an implant to repair it in the event of mitral insuf­fi­cien­cy,” she explains. 

So what is the under­pin­ning idea? “It’s about apply­ing dig­i­tal mod­el­ling to improve the effec­tive­ness of a med­ical device,” she adds. This idea appealed to Lau­rent Lan­quetin. The proof? Very quick­ly, a for­mal part­ner­ship was formed with Seg­u­la Tech­nolo­gies, a leader in engi­neer­ing fields such as the auto­mo­tive, rail­way, naval and ener­gy indus­tries. “At the Trappes site, we are main­ly spe­cialised in the auto­mo­tive sec­tor with a com­put­er based design office of around one hun­dred peo­ple, engi­neers and doc­tor­al stu­dents. Our role is to sup­port cus­tomers in var­i­ous projects for the devel­op­ment of spe­cif­ic parts. How­ev­er, in an effort to diver­si­fy, we had start­ed to devel­op more and more projects in bio­engi­neer­ing and bio­med­ical, and Anne-Vir­ginie’s project fit­ted in per­fect­ly with this,” explains Lau­rent Lanquetin. 

This is how Thibaut Alleau, a final year stu­dent at an engi­neer­ing school in Toulon, came on board as an intern. “Every year, we work with the group’s research and inno­va­tion divi­sion and reg­u­lar­ly take on stu­dents for their end-of-stud­ies intern­ship in order to devel­op, in par­tic­u­lar, dif­fer­ent dig­i­tal method­olo­gies. Thibaut was very moti­vat­ed and inter­est­ed in the sub­ject. This would allow us to work on the devel­op­ment of sim­u­la­tion strate­gies in a new field. Name­ly, bio­med­ical,” empha­sis­es Lau­rent Lan­quetin. But in this field, a six-month intern­ship is short. “Thibaut was begin­ning to grasp all the prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with blood flow, but the rest was going to require a huge amount of work. It must be admit­ted that mod­el­ling flu­id flows in large ves­sels is already not sim­ple, but in the case of the heart, an addi­tion­al com­plex­i­ty results from the move­ment of the valves, which open and close in a strong inter­ac­tion with the blood flow…In a word: even sim­pli­fied, the prob­lem remains com­plex,” explains Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac. Hav­ing devel­oped a taste for research, Thibaut opt­ed for a doc­tor­ate at the UTC. A Cifre the­sis was set up to advance the project. Its objec­tive? To answer the ques­tion of ‘how’. How to mod­el? What approach­es and tools to use? “Today, as the the­sis draws to a close, we have a work­ing valve mod­el that will allow us to test implants. We hope to find fund­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly with­in the frame­work of the nation­al recov­ery finan­cial aid plan, so that Thibaut can opti­mise the implant pro­to­types. If not, we shall keep our fin­gers crossed for a new Cifre the­sis,’ she concludes. 

Le magazine

Novembre 2023 - N°61

Activité physique, nutrition & santé

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