'Cook' - A Doctor's True Story
By: Dr. Robert V. Snyders
About the Book
RETIRED CAHOKIA DOCTOR INVENTS MEDICAL DEVICES
By Jason White, Managing Editor
The Cohokia Herald
August 15, 2001
The heart is where Dr. Robert V. Snyders is most at home these days.
Snyders, a physician in Cahokia for three decades until his retirement six years ago, is working on a new generation of implanted cardiac assist devices.
His interest in the field began in 1988, when his mother-in-law died of late-stage congestive heart failure a few months after being treated for the condition. She was in her late 70s and otherwise healthy.
“She should have lived a longer life,” he said.
“And that got me started. There ought to be something simple we can do…that can give them a few more years.”
Late-stage heart failure affects about 500,000 Americans. Another 50,000 to 100,000 suffer from acute heart failure, which may occur after surgery or heart attacks.
More than a decade later, Snyder’s has developed three of what he calls “implanted cardiac assist devices.”
His initial forays into the field began with the fabrication of a pneumatic heart jacket. The jacket wraps around the heart and pumps through an electrocardiogram-timed gas-driven system.
Later, he modified the jacket design into a fluid-driven device that reduces a heart’s volume, which helps restore heart functionality to victims of late-stage heart failure, an electrocardiogram-timed gas-driven system.
Later, he modified the jacket design into a fluid-driven device that reduces a heart’s volume, which helps restore heart functionality to victims of late-stage heart failure.
Snyders worked at the St. Louis University Medical School’s Surgical Research Institute, where he tested prototypes of the jacket on pigs. Another early step involved building
hearmodels based on animal and human cadavers. “I had to start from scratch,” he said.
The devices reduce the bleeding and infection risks posed by the current generation of cardiac assist devices, Snyders said. People who use these devices often require a heart transplant – an operation that is performed only 2,500 times per year.
“You try to get a heart transplant, and that’s a tough act to follow [through to completion],” Snyders said.
In the last two years, Snyders has built a device called a “Funnel Valve” to prevent blood from flowing the wrong way through the heart’s four valves. The valve would be delivered to the heart through blood vessels. Its advantage is that a patient’s heart would not have to be stopped.
Snyders paid for much of his early research out of his own pocket. But in 1998, he licensed three of his patents to Cardio Technologies, Inc. of Pine Brook, N.J. The company combined his inventions with those of Dr. Mark Anstadt of Duke University to develop a pneumatic heart jacket that is now being tested at East Coast medical facilities. A year later, Snyders licensed the patent for Pine Brook, N.J. The company combined his inventions with those of Dr. Mark Anstadt of Duke University to develop a pneumatic heart jacket that is now being tested at East Coast medical facilities. A year later, Snyders licensed the patent for the fluid-driven modification of the heart jacket.
Testing is one reason his research takes so much money. For example, he travels to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York to test his valve on a flow loop – a machine that simulates the flow of blood through the heart – because St. Louis doesn’t have a flow loop.
He said it will be three to five years before the Food and Drug Administration grants an investigational device exemption so that his inventions can be used on people.
“When you start these things…you never know what particular modifications might work best,” he said. “That’s why it takes a number of years. You don’t hit it right away.”
Continued inside on page 72.