The number of artificial prosthetic replacement parts available for the human body is really quite impressive. From prosthetic eyes to artificial hips and knees, there are very few parts of the human body that can’t be swapped out with something that works at least as well as the original, especially given that the OEM part was probably in pretty tough shape in the first place.
But the heart has always been a weak spot in humans, in part because of the fact that it never gets to rest, and in part because all things considered, we modern humans don’t take really good care of it. And when the heart breaks down past the point where medicine or surgery can help, we’re left with far fewer alternatives than someone with a bum knee would face. The fact is that the best we can currently hope for is a mechanical heart that lets a patient live long enough to find a donor heart. But even then, tragedy must necessarily attend, and someone young and healthy must die so that someone else may live.
A permanent implantable artificial heart has long been a goal of medicine, and if recent developments in materials science and electrical engineering have anything to say about it, such a device may soon become a reality. Heart replacements may someday be as simple as hip replacements, but getting to that point requires understanding the history of mechanical hearts, and why it’s not just as simple as building a pump.
Continue reading “Permanent Artificial Hearts: Long-Sought Replacements May Not Be Far Away” →
As 3D printing becomes more and more used in a wide range of fields, medical science is not left behind. From the more standard uses such as printing medical equipment and prosthetics to more advanced uses like printing cartilages and bones, the success of 3D printing technologies in the medical field is rapidly growing.
One of the last breakthrough is the world’s first 3D vascularised engineered heart using the patient’s own cells and biological materials. Until now, scientists have only been successful in printing only simple tissues without blood vessels. Researchers from Tel Aviv University used the fatty tissue from patients to separate the cellular and acellular materials and reprogrammed the cells become pluripotent stem cells. The extracellular matrix (ECM) was processed into a personalized hydrogel that served as the basis from the print.
This heart is made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. In our process these materials serve as the bioinks, substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3D printing of complex tissue models… At this stage, our 3D heart is small, the size of a rabbit’s heart, but larger human hearts require the same technology.
After being mixed with the hydrogel, the cells were efficiently differentiated to cardiac or endothelial cells to create patient-specific, immune-compatible cardiac patches with blood vessels and, subsequently, an entire heart that completely matches the immunological, cellular, biochemical and anatomical properties of the patient. The difficulty of printing full-blown organs were being tackled for a long time and we already talked about it in the past.
The development of this technology may completely solve both the problem of organ compatibility and organ rejection.
Here’s something we thought we’d never see on Hackaday. [Chris Suprock] is developing an artificial heart he calls Steel Heart. It’s an artificial heart powered by electromagnets and ferrofluids.
The idea behind [Chris]’ artificial heart is ingenious in its simplicity. An elastic membrane is stretched across a frame and a magnetic liquid (or ferrofluid, if you prefer) is poured across the membrane. An electromagnet is activated and the membrane stretches out, simulating the beating of a heart. Put a few of these together and you’ve got a compact, biologically inert pump that’s perfect for replacing an aging ticker.
[Chris]’ plan to use ferrofluids and electromagnets as an artificial heart give us pause to actually think about what he’s done here. Previously, artificial hearts used either pneumatics or motors to pump blood throughout the body. Pneumatic pumps required plastic tubes coming out of the body – not a satisfactory long-term solution. Motor-driven pumps can rupture red blood cells leading to hemolysis. Using ferrofluids and an elastic membrane allows for the best of both worlds – undamaged blood cells and transdermal induction charging.
Not only is [Chris] designing a freaking artificial heart, he also came up with a useful application of ferrofluids. We were nearly ready to write off magnetic particles suspended in a liquid as a cool science toy or artistic inspiration. You can check out [Chris]’ indiegogo video with a demo of the ferrofluid pump in action after the break.
Continue reading “Building An Artificial Heart With Ferrofluids” →