In the U.S. alone, thousands are now waiting for organ transplants, and an average of 17 people die every day from running out of time-and that’s why the development of artificial organs is a very important area of research.
Now a team of surgeons has successfully completed the first human implantation in the US of an artificial heart device called ‘Aeson’, developed by French company CARMAT. The artificial heart has two ventricular chambers and four biological valves, much like a real organ, and is driven by an external apparatus.
Made from “biocompatible materials” including bovine tissue, the artificial heart uses a combination of sensors and algorithms to maintain its rhythm and keep blood circulating throughout the body.
“We are encouraged that our patients do well after the procedure,” said cardiologist Carmelo Milano of Duke University School of Medicine. “As we evaluate this device, we are equally happy and hope that patients who have little or no choice can live life.”
The patient in question was Matthew Moore, 39, of Shallotte in North Carolina. Moore was initially due to heart bypass surgery, but as his condition worsened, the medical staff began to run out of options; he became so ill that a regular heart transplant was too risky.
Fortunately, he’s in the right place: the Aeson device is being tested at Duke University, pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Already given the green light for use by regulators in Europe, after several years of testing on European patients, not everything worked out.
An artificial heart has been developed specifically to help those whose hearts are no longer able to pump enough blood through both chambers. It replaces the entire natural heart, though not meant to last – it is planned to be a bridge toward a full heart transplant in six months or so.
“Because of a lack of donor hearts, many patients die while waiting for a heart transplant,” said cardiologist Jacob Schroder of Duke University School of Medicine. “We hope there are new options to help these patients, like Mr. Moore who has a devastating illness and cannot be considered for transplantation.”
This is just a tool for one particular organ: another team of researchers is working on other body parts that could potentially go in when our body parts fail. If the technology can be developed successfully and safely, the profit potential is enormous.
The FDA has approved a U.S. trial of the CARMAT artificial heart, which will involve 10 patients with end -stage biventricular heart failure, and is evaluating whether Aeson can act as a way to prolong life before a heart transplant can occur.
For now, Matthew Moore needs to bring a controller and a pack of rechargeable batteries to keep the Aeson working – but he’s still alive, and the technology that keeps it alive could continue to save thousands more lives in the future, if further testing of the device turns out positive.
“Both Matthew and I are so grateful that we were given the opportunity to participate in something that could potentially impact so many lives,” said Matthew’s wife, Rachel Moore, a practicing nurse.
“We just take it from day to day and hope everything continues to go well.”