This is one of the early versions of the St. Jude Medical (SJM) artificial heart valve, a bi-leaflet valve made of pyrolytic carbon. There are four pivot points, and the edges of the donut are not as rounded as later models. A white Dacron sewing ring surrounds the valve. The first surgical implant with a SJM heart valve was carried out in October 1977.
The SJM valve was the first all carbon valve in clinical use. All St. Jude valves would be made with pyrolytic carbon, a material and coating recognized for its biocompatibility and thromboresistance. The SJM valve quickly became the 'gold standard' for subsequent valves.
St. Jude Medical was founded by Manuel "Manny" Villafaña in 1976, in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A. The model for its popular bi-leaflet valve was developed at the University of Minnesota in 1972 by Dr. Demetre Nicoloff (1934-2003). It differed from previous valves because it was made of pyrolytic carbon, a material that was very durable and could last many years in the body. Dr. Jack Bokros, founder of OnX Life Technologies Inc., is the doctor who developed this material. Manny Villafaña is a businessman whose first company was Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc.
In an interview for the Smithsonian, Villafaña identified this valve as the first St. Jude valve, "serial number one," made of pyrolytic carbon, January 20, 1977. The interview clip is available online as "Manny Villafana's "No. 1" St. Jude Heart Valve."
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