Artificial No-Pump Heart

It has already been placed into several calves successfully, and at least two humans.  They each had a complete artificial heart replace their actual heart, and none of them now has a pulse.  What if someone you knew was walking around without a pulse? Personally, I am calling vampire.

Seriously, a new developing technology could change the way people with heart failure perceive it.  Right now there are people waiting on lists that may never see a heart.  Some of them are attached to heart pumps that are there to keep them alive until their name can be called for a transplant.  It really is no way to live.

As of today on the UNOS website there are 113,163 people on the waiting list, and out of that amount only 72,583 will even be considered for a donor heart.  Last year in the United States according to the Health Resources and Services Administration there were only 2,203 heart donors.  So, basically having heart failure and getting a transplant is like winning the lottery.

The new continuous-flow hearts that steadily deliver blood to the body are being developed by Dr. Billy Cohn and Dr. Bud Frazier at the Texas Heart Institute.  All of them have placed turbines in individuals for years, and these help the heart to work.  Their hope is that the new artificial heart will be able to completely replace sick hearts in people.

The invention of the Archimedes’ screw would go on to help power the LVAC, a pump that helps the heart to work and later the HeartMate II.  After several amazing cases of patients’ hearts stopping to work to all together, and the LVAC taking over as a way of delivering blood to the body, Cohn was further inspired to find a way to come up with a turbine that could completely replace the heart.

Cohn placed the first continuous-flow artificial heart into a calf named Meeko.  The device is based on ventricular design and will push blood continuously throughout the patient’s body instead of in pumps.  Cohn and Frazier discovered that the pulse was only necessary for the actual heart, and Cohn said, “The pulsatility of the flow is essential for the heart, because it can only get nourishment in between heartbeats. If you remove that from the system, none of the other organs seem to care much.”