Scientists have developed a 3D-printed soft silicone heart that closely resembles and functions like the human organ, and could help save lives of people who suffer from cardiac failure. The well-functioning artificial heart is a real necessity, researchers said.
About 26 million people worldwide suffer from heart failure while there is a shortage of donor hearts. Artificial blood pumps help to bridge the waiting time until a patient receives a donor heart or their own heart recovers. The soft artificial heart weighs 390 grammes and has a volume of 679 cubic centimetres.
“It is a silicone monoblock with complex inner structure,” said Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
The artificial heart has a right and a left ventricle, just like a real human heart, though they are not separated by a septum but by an additional chamber. This chamber is inflated and deflated by pressurised air and is required to pump fluid from the blood chambers, thus replacing the muscle contraction of the human heart. Researchers showed that the soft artificial heart fundamentally works and moves in a similar way to a human heart.
However, it currently lasts for about only 3,000 beats, which corresponds to a lifetime of half to three quarters of an hour. After that, the material can no longer withstand the strain. “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 tensile strength of the material and the performance would have to be enhanced significantly. The research was published in journal Artificial Organs.