Heart surgeon after 23-hour long heart transplant. These doctors are working on an artificial heart that doesn’t pump at all!
Heart failure is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States. There are various devices which help the heart pump, but they are only temporary fixes to hold a patient over until they can receive a transplant. There’s a long waiting list of transplants and not many donor organs to fill all of the requests, so most people never receive one. Those who do have to deal with their bodies rejecting the organs and live a hindered life, though they are still alive.
Billy Cohn and Bud Frazier have been trying to fix this problem. The recently implanted the first ever artificial heart that did not pump, but instead propelled blood through the body continuously, proving that humans can indeed live without a pulse. The device was a short-term fix, however, and the two surgeons were not satisfied.
In 2012, they teamed up with Daniel Timms, a biomedical engineer, who created a device that had a similar effect as theirs, but it was smaller and resistant to wear.
One of the biggest problems with artificial hearts and other devices of the kind is that they wear down over time. Our bodies can regrow damaged tissue, but artificial devices don’t regrow. Timms’ device is suspended in a magnetic field which eliminates friction and, in turn, wear and tear on the device. The magnetic field also controls how fast the blood is pushed through the body.
This device is still years away from being available to everyone, but it is pretty exciting news. It has the potential to save thousands of lives every year.