On December 18th in France, the world's first bioprosthetic heart was implanted in a human being. The future of cybernetics has arrived.
Carmat’s bioprosthetic heart is three times heavier than a human heart and will run up to five or so years. The heart is designed around the theory that an artificial unit that utilizes biological tissues – in this case taken from a cow – and synthetics stands a much better change of avoiding rejection and improve the overall performance of the heart. While synthetic replacements are nothing new, Carmat’s combination of living tissue into the apparatus is a new turn.
The membrane that divides the heart’s chambers is taken from the tissue that surrounds the heart of a cow. Hydraulic fluid is then pumped back and forth through the membrane to increase blood flow. Similar tissues are also used in the machine’s valve system which in theory should help regulate blood flow during strenuous physical activity and allow the patient to need less anti-coagulant drugs.
While the French Health Ministry touted the successful transplant as a miracle of modern science Carmat urged the health community not to rush to premature judgment over a single implant as clearly there would be more cases to come as patients have signed up for more trials.
Last September France finally approved the heart for use in humans after it had already garnered approval in Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, and Poland. The patient who received the transplant is said to be doing well in intensive care with no signs of rejection at this date.
The device could be the answer for hundreds of thousand of people who have heart trouble, but the expected cost of the unit is $200,000, which could be a roadblock to seeing widespread use. As to whether Carmat will develop a more moderately priced unit only time will tell.