Twenty-six million people across the world suffer from heart failure each year. There is a shortage of donors and blood pumps are susceptible to complications.
A team from ETH Switzerland, however, has created a possible solution: the world’s first silicon heart. It closely resembles the functions of a real heart and is an inexpensive alternative to pacemakers.
The soft heart is actually a 3-D print — the lost cast-waxing method — and is very close to the human heart in shape and size. It weighs 390g and has a volume of 679 cubic centimeters.
The developer, Nicholas Cohrs, calls it “a silicon monoblock with complex inner structure,” and he’s right. This model comes complete with its own left and right ventricles and has an additional chamber instead of the septum. This chamber acts like a pump as it is inflated and deflated with pressurized air, and imitates the muscle functions of the human heart.
A New Direction
The heart was tested by Anastasios Petrou, a doctoral student at Product Development Group Zurich, who published his findings in the journal Artificial Organs. He had discovered that the silicon heart can only withstand the strain for 3000 beats, which is about forty-five minutes, but he’s still hopeful.
This was simply a feasibility test. Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation — but to think in a new direction for the development of hearts.
Zurich Heart Bringing Researchers Together
Cohrs and Petro met in the Zurich Heart Project, and have begun a joint research to improve this venture.
In a separate endeavor, a team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute has successfully mimicked the functions of the heart with the help of spinach leaves. In short, a solution seems close at hand.