This Squishy Artificial Heart Is Amazing

3D-printed artificial heart beats just like the real thing

3D-printed artificial heart beats just like the real thing

Heart diseases rank first among causes of death. An artificial heart more closely based on human physiology could overcome those issues.

There is definitely a need for artificial hearts, as ETH Zurich points out, there are 26 million people suffering from heart failure in the world and a prevalent lack of heart donors.

One problem with artificial hearts is that metal and plastic mechanisms can be hard to integrate with tissue, or damage the blood due to their unnatural movement style.

Although the heart worked in a similar fashion to a real human heart, the material could only withstand the strain of pumped circulation for roughly 3,000 beats, or for a period of 30 to 45 minutes. 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.

In the future, it could be used as an temporary heart instead of the blood pumps hospitals use today for patients waiting for a heart transplant. It weighs 390g (the average human heart is about 310g), and has a volume of 679cm (a size comparable to the human heart).

A silicone heart, created by a 3D printer, was found to function in fundamentally the same way as an actual human heart.

Developed at the Functional Materials Laboratory by doctoral student Nicholas Cohrs and Professor of Functional Materials Engineering Wendelin Stark. However, it still has one problem: it now lasts for about only 3,000 beats, which corresponds to a lifetime of half to three quarters of an hour. The new soft artificial heart, now described in the science journal Artificial Organs, only works for about three-quarters of an hour, but it passed some critical tests in terms of its potential.

"Currently, our system is probably one of the best in the world", commented Anastasios Petrou, a doctoral student of the Product Development Group Zurich. But the plan, obviously, is to have materials and designs that work for much longer than that.

But the heart is a success in other ways: "This was simply a feasibility test", Cohrs said.

The researchers were able to evaluate the performance of the heart in a testing environment that simulates human cardiovascular systems. "I'm now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts". With that said, the team says this proof of concept shows a possible path forward when it comes to artificial hearts. Most current devices use mechanical approaches to pump blood, which can develop faults and can damage the blood they're pumping.

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