The French biomed company Carmat announced that they might just be 3 years away from completing the quest. Although the company is based in France, the project is actually a pan-European venture partly funded by the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS). And it combines, of all things, tissue engineering and missile science to come up with a very promising heart prototype. The group is led by a star in cardiology, the renowned heart surgeon and inventor Dr Alain Carpentier of the Pierre & Marie Curie University, Paris, France.
“The device itself combines animal tissue, titanium, and technology borrowed from the missile-defense industry…A unique feature of the design is the sensor technology used in guided missiles, which senses the body’s activity level and adjusts accordingly.”
The Carmat heart is not the first of its kind but it may be the best (yet). There are already several US FDA-approved artificial hearts in the market.
- Jarvik 7 was developed by Dr Robert Jarvik in the early 1980s and was used in more than 350 patients. The average survival time was 10 months. A big limitation was the high complication rates.
- CardioWest is a modern version of Jarvik 7 and is used only in hospitalized end-stage heart failure patients as a bridging device while waiting for heart transplantation. It is manufactured by SynCardia System and was approved for marketing by the FDA in 2004.
- The AbioCor heart is the first fully implantable artificial heart. The devise is manufactured by Abiomed. It was cleared for marketing in 2006. It is used “for end-stage heart-failure patients who are not eligible for a heart transplant. It has an internal battery that lasts for just 30 minutes and a wearable external battery pack that lasts four hours.” The average survival rate of patients implanted with AbioCor is 5 months. A big limitation of the device is its bulky size which can only be accommodated by patients of a certain size. The manufacturer is developing a smaller version.
So what’s so special about the Carmat heart?
According to Business Week:
“The Carmat device can already claim to be the closest to mimicking a real heart’s anatomy, size, and function. A real heart, for instance, has two ventricles, the lower chambers that pump deoxygenated blood to the lungs and oxygenated blood out to the body. The Carmat heart similarly has two pumps that play the same role-a first for an artificial device.”
Other innovative features are:
- It combines polymer and biological tissues for the internal membranes
- It has a design that minimize blood turbulence
- It minimizes the formation of blood clots, a major limitation of other models
- It adjusts its own performance with state-of-the-art software and sensors
The great innovator himself, the late Dr. Michael DeBakey, who also dreamed of completing the quest, would have been impressed!