New pulseless total artificial heart

New pulseless total artificial heart

Summary: Two University of Houston (UH) engineering professors have received a $2.8 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a new artificial heart technology. In order to create a pulseless total artificial heart (TAH), they 'are focusing on developing a control system that emulates how the natural heart responds to physiological conditions within the body.' According to the scientists, their future device will be smaller, lighter and more reliable than existing pulsating artificial hearts. The team will work on these artificial hearts for the next four years, so don't expect to see them appearing on the medical market before a while. But read more...

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Two University of Houston (UH) engineering professors have received a $2.8 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a new artificial heart technology. In order to create a pulseless total artificial heart (TAH), they 'are focusing on developing a control system that emulates how the natural heart responds to physiological conditions within the body.' According to the scientists, their future device will be smaller, lighter and more reliable than existing pulsating artificial hearts. The team will work on these artificial hearts for the next four years, so don't expect to see them appearing on the medical market before a while. But read more...

UH pulseless total artificial heart

You can see above the picture of "a device similar to the less-costly, smaller pulseless artificial heart to be created that will perform the function of both the right and left ventricles of the heart. (Credit: Thomas Shea, UH) Here is a link to a larger version of this photo.

This new artificial heart technology will be developed by Matt Franchek and Ralph Metcalfe, both mechanical engineering professors in the UH Cullen College of Engineering. During the next four years, they will work with the lead investigator and inventor of the proposed TAH, Dr. O. H. Frazier, chief of the Center for Cardiac Support and director of surgical research at the Texas Heart Institute, as well as professors from Rice University, other Texas Heart Institute physicians and researchers from MicroMed Technology of Houston, to create this artificial heart device.

So how will work a pulseless artificial heart? "The proposed TAH replaces the pulsatile feature with two pulseless continuous flow pumps, each about the size of a C battery. The pumps also are unique in that their cardiac output automatically adjusts to physiological needs. To ensure proper integration of the TAH on a patient-to-patient basis, the UH team will be adding onboard intelligence to the TAH using automatic controls. One pump would be dedicated to the pulmonary loop, carrying oxygen-depleted blood away from the heart to the lungs and returning oxygenated blood back to the heart. The other pump would drive the systemic loop, carrying oxygenated blood away from the heart to the body and returning deoxygenated blood back to the heart."

And why this artificial heart is better than current ones already approved by the FDA? "The overarching goal is to create a robust continuous-flow ventricular assist device that is smaller and more reliable than the current pulsating pumps that mimic the natural heart. The mathematical models of the cardiovascular system also will be evaluated as a possible means to health prognostics and diagnostics. In addition, information from the controllers will be used to assess current conditions of the blood, including viscosity, which is critical to maintaining patient health."

Here are some quotes from the UH professors. "'We are very much looking forward to a long-term collaboration with this excellent biomedical engineering team and to the potential development of an effective, reliable mechanical replacement for the failing human heart,' says Metcalfe. 'With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States, this is crucial research that constantly needs fresh approaches and interaction across disciplines.' Echoing his colleague, Franchek adds, 'What we have here is a good partnership between engineers and physicians. We are harvesting knowledge from a fertile ground where many new discoveries lie, and at the end of the day our goal is to improve many people’s quality of life.'"

For more comments, you can read an October 13, 2008 article by Lewis Page in The Register, "Texan boffins working on electric cyber-heart." And by some kind of coincidence, SynCardia Systems, Inc. which manufactures the CardioWest artificial heart -- already approved by the FDA -- issued a press release about its product on October 8, 2008, "'Put Down the BBQ Ribs, We’ve Found You a Donor Heart,' Nurse Tells Patient."

Sources: University of Houston news release, October 9, 2008; and various websites

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  • pulseless artificial heart

    Back in the '60s, I was a summer intern at Litton in Minneapolis. Under the assumption that the heart must pulse for a reason, we proved in the lab that pulse flow provides more efficient mass transfer across a membrane. (The same principle applies to energy transfer.) A pulseless heart, I would think, will be less efficient than the alternative, and could possibly put needless stress on the lungs and related systems. We applied for NIH funding. I don't know if follow-up research was conducted, as I graduated and went on to work in a different field, but we devised mathematical models that were included in the proposal to NIH, and that ought to be available from somebody's file. Unfortunately my personal copy of the proposal was lost when my basement flooded several years ago.
    efbrandt
    • I thought hearts pulsed for the same reason's animals don't have wheels...

      I thought spinning was more efficient, but nothing natural could grow that way. After all, spinning parts would break the connections nature uses in circulatory systems.

      A pumping device has to combat its own inertia, it requires more moving parts, and it generates friction on more surfaces (at least if it has a crankshaft). A spinning device however, is mechanically simpler and can keep on spinning under its own inertia.
      T1Oracle
  • RE: New pulseless total artificial heart

    GreatIdea PerfectTheHeart FocusOnNextThingThatFails GetCompleteAndroid ThenBackToTheHeart.IndustryForever-TheAmericanWay OrJustTreatTheNaturalHeartBetter?
    cary@...
  • RE: New pulseless total artificial heart

    I have a gut feeling that the amount of hydraulic pressure required to ensure circulation would be like having a severe case of hypertension/ high blood pressure and would probably kill you in short order.
    I also envision excruciating pain if the pumps got out of sync or if one failed/clogged while the other one continued to exert pressure.
    jjourard
  • RE: New pulseless total artificial heart

    Sometimes in the mid 60s surgeons of the University of Hanover/Germany, I believe, tried the non-pulsating serum circulation and failed miserably.
    The conclusion at the time was that pulsating serum was required to - forgive me the common language - 'shake lose' waste products that otherwise would remain in certain organs, the liver and kidney for example.
    marc_90292@...
  • RE: New pulseless total artificial heart

    The whole circulatory system pulses - it's a very necessary part of how arteries work. I suspect that the new continuous flow devices will have severe negative effects on the arteries and veins - especially on no-longer-pumping atreries, and on the valved veins of of the lower limbs.

    Rob
    Manzoni
    • and another thing

      Arteries have their own pulse; they expand and contract in response to the pulsation of pressure from the heart. Like a resonating muffler, this increases system efficiency, especially when combined with the anti-backwash effects of the vein valves. The body has evolved intimately connected to a pulsating system. How quickly will the blood transport system deteriorate with the pulsation stilled and the valves continuously open?
      Geedavey
  • RE: New pulseless total artificial heart

    Beyond the obvious, that pulsing is indeed necessary for the body to function properly, think about breathing - maybe they will just start blowing air through the lungs. That doesn't work either!
    daniels.d@...
  • RE: New pulseless total artificial heart

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