The Bulletin

The hybrid heart that combines cows and mechanics

Posting in Aerospace

We're trying to build better artificial hearts, so will a hybrid biological and mechanical model succeed where others fail?

A new kind of heart has been developed which contains both synthetic and mechanical elements as well as sensors and software that detect changes in a patient's body and adjust outputs accordingly -- coming encased in the sac that surrounds a cow's heart.

Designed by Carmat, the "bioprosthetic" device contains two chambers -- separated by a membrane -- which contain hydraulic fluid. A motor-powered pump shifts the fluid through the chambers; forcing blood to channel through the opposite section. The membrane is constructed with cow tissue, and it is hoped that by using material better suited to a biological environment, patients will become less dependent on anti- coagulation medication.

Valves obtained from cows are also used in conjunction with pressure sensors that monitor a patient's condition and adjust the rate of blood flow depending on activity -- including when the user is exercising.

If proven to be effective, the new design could be used to give patients who may have to wait years for a heart transplant extra time and a better quality of life. Artificial hearts generally fail after a few years due to the task of pumping over 100,000 times or more a day, but even this stopgap measure could be used to save lives.

The system was developed through collaboration between the European Aerospace and Defense Systems and cardiac surgeon Alain Carpentier.

Read More: Technology Review

— By on June 1, 2013, 2:06 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure