The ETH researchers set out to develop a heart that looks like the real time and functions like one too. It was designed by Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student in the group, and was led by Wendelin Stark, professor of functional materials engineering at ETH Zurich
Currently, blood pumps are likely to have complications, according to the researchers. The new model tries to eliminate complications that arise from mechanical parts in other blood pumps.
“Our goal is to develop an artificial heart that is roughly the same size as the patient’s own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function,” said Cohrs in a press release.
The researchers used 3D printing and a lost-wax casting technique to create the silicone soft artificial heart that weighs 390 g and has a volume of 679 cm2.
It also features a right and left ventricle like a real heart, but are separated by an additional chamber instead of a septum. The chamber is deflated by pressurized air and pumps fluid from blood chambers to replace the muscle contractions of the human heart.
“It is a silicone monoblock with complex inner structure,” said Cohrs.
The artificial heart was tested by Anastasios Petrou, a doctoral student of the Product Development Group Zurich, and was led by professor Mirko Meboldt. They reported that the heart worked fundamentally works and its movement is similar to the human heart. The downside of the model is that it only lasts for 3,000 beats, which is equivalent to less than an hour of pumping. The material becomes weaker after 3,000 beats.
“This was simply a feasibility test. Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts,” said Cohrs.
The research was published online in the scientific journal Artificial Organs.
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