Artificial Hearts

“If a man can grow a heart, he can build one.” said Willem Johan Kolff, pioneer in development of artificial heart.
 
In recent years, an increasing number of patients are facing cardiac problems. According to published data, cardiovascular disease is the first cause of all deaths in China, which accounts for 2/5 of deaths. Almost all cardiovascular diseases deteriorate and eventually progress into the heart failure stage.

Among the 330 million cardiovascular patients in China, there are 13.7 million heart failure patients, including more than 600,000 end-stage cases. The mortality rate is relatively high in patients with severe heart failure, yet there are limited alternative treatments to heart transplantation which remains the most effective treatment today. However, due to the lack of effective life support for bridging to heart transplantation, many patients with severe heart failure regrettably pass away while waiting for heart donors.

The left ventricular of heart pumps blood from heart to the whole body, and vast majority heart failures occur at left ventricular.
Therefore, our development goals of artificial heart at magAssist have been focused on support devices for left ventricular from the beginning.

First-generation artificial hearts used pulsating pumps simulating the natural heart contraction. They circulated blood in a filling and emptying process, using the same principle as the heart.

In 1966, Dr. Debakey performed the first successful artificial heart VAD transplant operation. The device ran for 64 hours. The patient survived whilst waiting for a suitable heart donor. The success of this operation represented a milestone for artificial heart development.

Representative first-generation ventricular assist devices included Syncardia and Novacor. Over 7,000 heart failure patients were treated with these devices, saving their lives. However, products of this generation were structurally complex, large, difficult to operate, and prone to mechanical failure and thrombosis, causing unsatisfactory survival rates and prompting the birth of the second generation.

The second-generation artificial heart challenged the traditional idea that blood circulation could only be achieved through heartbeats. They used centrifugal or axial flow pumps to drive blood to flow through the body.

Artificial hearts from this generation were small and durable, significantly improving patients’ quality of life. They are currently used widely in clinical practice and have become the first choice for treatment prior to transplantation.

When the bearing rotates at high speed, however, a high-shear area is formed between the vane and the wall of the pump body. Red blood cells rupture under the action of shear force, producing hemolysis due to mechanical damage, leading to thrombus, and also increasing mortality from stroke and other complications.

Third-generation artificial hearts use hydraulic suspension (including magnetic-fluid double suspension) or a complete magnetic suspension system to prevent thrombosis.

Third-generation ventricular assist devices generally use hydraulic levitation (including magnetic-liquid double levitation) or a complete magnetic levitation system. The latter uses magnetic levitation to make the bearing rotate in the blood without any mechanical contact so that the blood cells are not crushed, solving the problem of thrombosis. This generation of devices is smaller, with more stable performance, and has received extensive attention from the scientific and medical community.

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