A heart injury often requires an entire organ transplant, but a new invention byEPFL (Switzerland) could relieve the pressure of a damaged heart so it can heal on its own.
When a heart is injured, it will patch up with scar tissue to keep its structure intact in the short term. The problem is that the heart will no longer be able to beat as it used to, thus subjecting you to intense strain that can cause heart failure and require a heart transplant.
Looking for a way to assist an injured heart, scientists therefore developed an artificial aorta that can help pump blood, relieving some of the pressure from the heart and preventing a heart transplant.
It is the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. A remarkable and very important job, done thanks to its elastic tissue, which swells when the blood is pumped into it by the heart and contracts to send the blood where it needs to go. Now, with an artificial aorta, scientists can recreate that same process.
“The advantage of our system is that it reduces the pressure on a patient's heart,” says Yoan Civet, author of the study.
The idea is not to replace the heart, but to assist and eliminate it transplants.
How is the artificial aorta made to prevent a heart transplant?
The device consists of a silicone tube complete with a set of electrodes, designed to be implanted at the very beginning of the aorta, just behind the aortic valve.
When an electrical voltage is applied, the tube swells more than a natural aorta would, so it can hold more blood. Then the tension can be released by stiffening the artificial aorta again to pump out the blood.
The team tested the device in a laboratory model of the human circulatory system, made using pumps and chambers that simulate realistic human blood flow and pressure.
Until now, the device has been able to reduce the cardiac energy required by the heart by 5,5%. While it might not seem like a lot, it shows that the concept works. The results are published in the Advanced Science journal.