Self-regulating artificial heart implanted in first human test

Last Wednesday in Paris, a 75 year-old man received an artificial heart. That in itself might not be newsworthy, as such devices have been in use since the early 80s. In this case, however, the gadget in question was the first Carmat bioprosthetic artificial heart to ever be implanted in a human. According to its inventor, cardiac surgeon Alain Carpentier, it’s the world’s first self-regulating artificial heart.

When Carpentier uses the term “self-regulating,” he refers to the Carmat’s ability to speed up or slow down its flow rate based on the patient’s physiological needs – if they’re performing a vigorous physical activity, for instance, the heart will respond by beating faster. This is made possible via “multiple miniature embedded sensors” and proprietary algorithms running on its integrated microprocessor…

…Although the Carmat is similar in size to a natural adult human heart, it’s a little on the big side. It should therefore fit inside 86 percent of men, but only 20 percent of women – that said, the company has stated that a smaller model could be made. It’s also almost three times heavier than a real heart, tipping the scales at approximately 900 grams…

Power comes from an external lithium-ion battery pack worn by the patient, and a fuel cell is in the works. The heart itself is intended to operate continuously for at least five years (or 230 million beats) although in its first human trials, success will be gauged on whether or not it allows recipients to survive for at least another month. Needless to say, volunteers receiving the implant will already be in the final stages of heart failure…

Assuming trials go well, the device will start to be available in 2 years. The lone recipient appears to be OK. 🙂

Prof. Carpentier worked with French aerospace firm EADS to develop the replacement heart. I don’t think this will get you a discount flight on an A380.

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