Pulse-less artificial heart gets new lease of life with US$2.8m grant

20 August 2009

The Texas Heart Institute has been awarded a $2.8 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a second year of research to develop a pulse-less total artificial heart. The heart uses two MicroMed ventricular assist devices (VADs), initially created by Drs Michael DeBakey and George Noon.

“Two years ago, I went to Dr DeBakey to discuss using two continuous flow VADs to create a total artificial heart,” said principal investigator Bud Frazier, MD, chief of Cardiopulmonary Transplantation, chief of the Center for Cardiac Support and director of Surgical Research at the Texas Heart Institute.

“We wanted to work with a local company and MicroMed’s VAD was ideal because of its miniature size. Dr DeBakey said he was surprised he hadn’t thought of the idea himself.”

Dr Frazier’s Total Artificial Heart uses two MicroMed HeartAssist 5 VADs. One VAD circulates blood throughout the body and the other circulates blood to and from the lungs.

A MicroMed HeartAssist 5 ventricular assist device
A MicroMed HeartAssist 5 ventricular assist device

“Over the last year, under Dr Frazier’s leadership and direction, we focused on anatomical fitting, atrial cuff configuration and the experimental protocol to get repeatable and reliable results,” said Robert Benkowski, Chief Operating Officer for MicroMed Cardiovascular.

“Our goals are to continue development of a ground-breaking algorithm for balancing the left and right pumps, to design an integrated controller that can run both pumps and to evaluate which physiologic sensors are necessary for the controller.”

The grant was originally awarded in June 2008 under the NIH Bioengineering Research Partnership, a special program to encourage collaboration among medical, academic and engineering experts. The Total Artificial Heart project is a joint effort by Texas Heart Institute, University of Houston, Rice University and MicroMed Cardiovascular.

The HeartAssist 5 pump weighs only 92 grams and measures just 2.8 x 1.2 inches. Because of its miniature size, it is one of the few LVADs that can be implanted above the diaphragm, adjacent to the heart. The HeartAssist 5 is the only LVAD with a precise, direct flow measurement system.

In Europe, the HeartAssist 5, the Modern DeBakey VAD, has CE Marks for both adult and pediatric use. In the US, the HeartAssist 5, formerly DeBakey VAD Child, is the only FDA-approved pediatric VAD. A bridge-to-transplant IDE clinical study is currently underway in the US for adults.


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