Published: Sat, July 15, 2017
Medicine | By Megan Pierce

Researchers Develop Silicone Heart that Beats Almost Like Human Heart

Researchers Develop Silicone Heart that Beats Almost Like Human Heart

The researchers now need to find or develop a more durable material and improve the artificial organ's performance so that it can last much, much longer than that. According to the Swiss group, the silicone structure is "the first entirely soft artificial heart". Hard, mechanical blood pumps can produce complications, and do not provide patients with a pulse.

Gif shows testing of the silicone artificial heart. It's built using 3-D printing techniques, which are increasingly popular for creating synthetic organs, in order to create an internal structure that mimics that of a real human heart, with right and left ventricles. Blood pumps are now used as a substitute or as a stopgap while a patient waits for a donor heart or to recover from the heart problem.

That's why when the team set out to create an artificial heart, they made it their goal to develop one that "is roughly the same size as the patient's own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function". The artificial heart can last for around 3,000 beats, or 30 to 45 minutes.

Each year, about 26 million people worldwide suffer a heart failure and donors barely cover a fraction of the demand. What's needed in the interim is a device that more closely resembles the real thing, and that's exactly what a research team led by Nicholas Cohrs from ETH Zurich has done. As the chamber is inflated and deflate by pressurized air, it pumps the fluid from the chambers. It therefore acts in place of the muscle contraction of the human heart.

"This was simply a feasibility test", said Cohrs.

In tests the heart worked quite well, pushing a blood-like fluid along against body-like pressures. "I'm now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts".

Anastasios Petrou, a doctoral student of the Product Development Group Zurich, led by Professor Mirko Meboldt evaluated the performance of this soft artificial heart.

The researchers' work is published this week in the journal Artificial Organs (naturally). Part of the research focuses on improvements on existing blood pumps, such as how to reduce blood damage induced from the mechanical parts of the pump, while others explore extremely elastic membranes or more biocompatible surfaces.

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