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Date:2/14/2008

A new device could put the beat back into weak hearts - and free patients from a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs.

Current implanted heart assist devices function by sucking blood from the ventricles and then expelling it into downstream vessels. Whilst these have been successful in prolonging the lives of heart patients, they come into contact with the blood stream and hence require life-long drug therapy to suppress the immune system and prevent blood clotting. In addition, many of these devices use high speed turbines to produce the pumping force, and this has been proven to cause damage to cells within the blood increasing the chance of clots forming.

The ingenious device being developed by engineers at the University of Leeds provides a less invasive alternative. The team has developed a specially-woven web made from biocompatible material which will not be rejected by the body.

The webbing wraps around the heart and therefore does not come into contact with the blood stream. Inbuilt sensors recognise when the heart wants to beat and trigger a series of miniature motors which cause the web to contract increasing the internal pressure and assisting the heart to pump the blood around the body.

The team consists of Drs Peter Walker (who devised the original concept) and Martin Levesley from the Universitys School of Mechanical Engineering, cardiac consultants Kevin Watterson and Osama Jaber from Leeds General Infirmary and engineering PhD student David Keeling. The research has been funded by Leeds-based medical charity Heart Research UK.

Its a really simple concept that works in the same way as when you squeeze a plastic bottle, forcing the liquid inside to rise, says PhD student David Keeling who has built a special rig to test the device.

The device is currently at prototype stage with team using a computer simulated model of the human blood flow circuit coupled to Davids mechanical rig. The
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Contact: Jo Kelly
jokelly@campuspr.co.uk
44-113-258-9880
University of Leeds
Source:Eurekalert  

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