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Work on long-term artificial heart picks up pace

By KARL WILSON in Sydney | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-02-28 09:43
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A team of Australian scientists is leading the race to develop the world's first long-term artificial heart, an endeavor that could help drastically bring down the number of deaths from cardiac failure.

The artificial heart and two other cardiac devices are being developed by Monash University's Artificial Heart Frontiers Program in Melbourne.

The implantable cardiac devices, when complete, will for the first time offer long-term hope for people waiting for heart transplants.

The devices are being described as "off-the-shelf" alternatives to organ donation. Together, the highly durable devices could halve the number of deaths from heart failure and establish Australia as a world leader in the clinical trial, development and manufacture of cardiac medical technology.

The research involves three devices, according to a statement from Monash University.

One is a mini pump that can be implanted inside the heart of patients who currently have no other option for treating their heart failure symptoms. The second is a new type of left ventricle assist device that is implanted next to a natural heart to help it pump; and the third is the Total Artificial Heart, from Australia-US firm BiVACOR, that fully replaces a natural heart.

"All three devices use game-changing technologies that will allow them to mimic a natural heart by automatically responding to the body's physical demands — for the first time offering heart failure patients a treatment that helps to keep them active," Monash said in a statement.

"These devices and support technologies will improve patient quality of life by providing more and better treatment options such as minimizing hospitalizations, and reducing physical burdens, thereby increasing patient productivity and their capacity to engage in a broader array of life activities," Carolyn Stone, chief of operations at the program, told China Daily.

Michael Simmonds, head of Griffith University's Mechanobiology Research Laboratory, leads a team that has worked collaboratively with biomedical company BiVACOR, providing expertise that has been critical toward the regulatory approval of the key devices being tested to treat symptoms of heart failure.

"Collectively, our devices will revolutionize heart failure treatment as they focus on different stages and forms of heart failure," Simmonds told China Daily.

"BiVACOR's Total Artificial Heart, for example, is a complete heart replacement for a diseased heart, while the left ventricle assist device is a technology that assists in unloading a diseased heart.

"The miniature pump will focus on a form of heart failure that has received limited attention from medical device developers. So, as a collective, our technologies promise to aid those with heart failure at different stages and with different forms of disease."

"By providing for the first time an automatic physiological response, these devices will significantly improve the quality of life of patients, allowing them to complete standard daily activities without shortness of breath," David Kaye, project co-lead and director of cardiology at The Alfred, said.

Stone said heart disease is the world's leading cause of death.

"Unfortunately, heart donations in Australia are only available to about 100 to 200 patients per year," she said.

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