By Andrew Liszewski
Researchers at the University of Leeds have developed a new system to assist those with weak hearts. Current solutions use implanted devices that suck blood out of the heart and pump it into downstream vessels. While they do work, they require the patient to undergo life-long drug therapy to suppress the immune system and prevent blood clotting. They also tend to damage the blood cells they’re pumping because of the high speed turbines they use. However this new system, which was originally devised by Dr. Peter Walker, actually wraps the heart in a specially woven biocompatible web material that never comes into contact with the blood stream. As a result, there’s no chance of the patient’s body rejecting it.
It works by using sensors to detect when the heart wants to beat which triggers a series of motors that cause the webbing to contract. This then increases the pressure inside the heart helping it to pump blood around the body. The device is still in the prototype stage at this point and has only been used on a testing rig that simulates a real human heart. But the team is optimistic that once they’ve perfected the sensors and mechanics it will be extremely beneficial to heart patients and those waiting for transplants.