SCIENCE AND EDUCATION


'Bionic' heart that's as good as transplant

Baku, February 27, AZERTAC

Thousands of terminally ill Britons awaiting a heart transplant could be thrown a lifeline by a motorised implant plumbed into the chest, according to Daily Mail.

The device effectively creates a new ‘bionic’ organ, meshing heart muscle and machine.

The groundbreaking implant, due to be offered to patients from next year, contains a tiny motor that assists the pumping action of the existing heart muscle by helping it push oxygenated blood out into the body.

While about 200 heart transplants take place annually in the UK, an estimated 1,300 men, women and children die every year waiting for a new organ, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Left-sided ventricular assist devices (LVADs) are put into about 30 adults and children in the UK each year as a ‘bridge to transplant’, to buy time while a donor organ is found.

But they carry the risk of blood clots and stroke, and often an organ does not become available in time to save the patient.

The new device is a safe, permanent solution, its developers claim.

The motor – the size of a lipstick tube and just two-thirds of the size of current pumps – has been developed by a UK team in Swansea led by Professor Stephen Westaby, who says: ‘There is a massive unmet need that can never be satisfied by human donor organs.

'A mechanical pump is the way forward and I’m confident within a few years we will see more people being fitted with these pumps than those having transplants.’

An LVAD is a battery-operated device which helps push blood from the heart into the body, taking the weight off the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart.

The machine, which is plumbed into the base of the heart via the upper abdomen, draws blood from the left ventricle through a pump system and into the aorta, the main artery.

A cable coming from the device and out of the body via a port is connected to a controller, about the size of a deck of cards, and two mobile phone-sized battery packs, worn in a special harness around the waist.

The MiniVAD, a left-sided heart pump designed by Prof Westaby’s team, is the world’s smallest LVAD to date. It can be worn under clothes, improving quality of life for the patient.

In trials, it has shown none of the complications of the bridge devices used at the moment and the team plan to begin human trials next year.

Prof Westaby says: ‘I hope this device will be used as the equivalent of an off-the-shelf heart transplant for patients with severe heart failure.

‘There needs to be a sea change in the way we deal with this. We have thousands dying unnecessarily who could be saved.’

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