Invention of the Month: The Artificial Heart

By: Gitty Boshnack  |  April 28, 2021

By Gitty Boshnack

We’ve all waited on lines before. Lines for black friday sales, lines for roller coasters in amusement parks or lines to see the latest Blockbuster movie. There’s a certain line, however, that you never want to wait on; it’s called the United Network for Organ Sharing or UNOS list. When people have organ failure, they are put on a list which ranks them, amongst others who are in organ failure, in the order of necessity. People spend months waiting on this list for a new heart, a new pair of lungs or kidneys. Some patients can wait at home, but oftentimes they require treatment that is only available in the  hospital setting.

Carmat is designed to change the wait. Carmet is a France-based biotechnological company led by Dr. Alein Carperntier. For over thirty-years, he and his team have been working on a prototype to ensure that people will no longer die on transplant lists. The Company named the device Aeson and it is a completely artificial heart aimed at treating biventricular heart failure — when both ventricles of the heart aren’t pumping sufficient blood supply to the body. 

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscles become too weak or too stiff to adequately pump blood around a person’s body, thus starving their organs of oxygen and nutrients. There are no lasting effective treatments of heart failure. There are medicines to ease the symptoms and there are surgeries to stop the progression, but in certain cases, the disease can become too severe and the only cure left is a heart transplant.

To overcome this hurdle, Aeson circumvents the problematic arteries and ventricles by replacing them with prosthetic materials. The artificial heart works by using hydraulic-powered pumps that operate by battery power. The device consists of three components: the prosthetic heart (cables, sensors, valves), external hardware which can be sealed in a pouch, and a controller used by the medical teamhaped prosthetic limb. This device physically and biologically is made to mimic the size and the activity of the human heart. There are sensors within the heart prosthetic that monitor blood flow and pressure. For example, the heart will adjust its beats per minute depending on the activity you are performing; if you are sleeping it will slow down. 

The device has a few advantages over the previous cardiac substitutes. Not only is it soundeless, there is no mechanical ticking, but the patient does not need to be on any blood thinners for the device to function properly, as was required in other cardiac prosthetics. Not to mention that the device was made with materials that are biologically friendly to reduce the risks of adverse reactions. Because of its engineering, there is no need for maintenance after the device is implanted. 

The device is available for commercial sale in the European Union and is only available in the United States through clinical trial. Currently the device is only approved to last in a person’s body for 180 days, but the Carmat engineers are working to make the prosthetic usable for a longer period of time. Carmat has figured out a way to mend a broken heart.

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