Tiny Little Pump will Rescue Weakened Hearts


Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI) of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne‘s (EPFL), Switzerland has developed an innovative cardiac support device in the form of a small ring placed on the aorta to help the weakened heart in recovering from severe chronic diseases and to maintain the functioning during heart transplants.

École Polytechnique Fédérale de LausanneThe innovative pump comes in the form of three small rings which is placed on aorta (main artery of the body) where it leaves the left ventricle. This cardiac support system device is made up of material called as Dielectric Electroactive Polymer (DEAP). It is the latest sensational electroactive polymers used in biomedical devices.


Figure 1. The heart device made up of dielectric electroactive polymer (photo credit: EFPL News).

According to the researchers of LAI, this device can help the weakened heart to pump blood. The tremendous advantage of this device over traditional methods is its less invasiveness that will prevent hemolysis and regular need of  blood transfusions because of its non contact property with blood.


How the Device Works?

The three DEAP rings have special electric properties which help it to contract in the absence of electric current and dilate when electric current is applied. Each ring contains two electrodes which draw together on application of electric field. This property helps to store electrical energy that provides back and forth movement. Electric field is applied through magnetic induction that helps the three rings to contract and resemble an earthworm like movement called “peristalsis”, which helps the blood to move in the artery. This mode of action repeats itself vertically as well as horizontally to help the system pump blood.

The video below explains the functioning of the heart device (Video credit: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne). 

The electrodes squeeze the polymer as they come together,” Jonathan Chavanne, PhD student at the LAI and inventor of DEAP, “Yet because this material is incompressible, its volume remains constant. So its surface area increases and stores up elastic energy.” This movement can be controlled in real time says the researcher.


Advantages over Traditional Techniques

Yves Perriard, the director of the LAI emphasized on the fact that the rate of loss of blood by transfusion and hemolysis is significantly reduced in this method due to the fact that the device does not come in direct contact with blood.

Yet another advantage of this device is its trigger through magnetic induction and the lack of electric wires which means that no wires are coming out of the body. The device’s performance is still to be tested with fluids having blood like fluidic properties.

Yves Perriard, the director of the LAI said “This method does not require us to enter the heart,” “This means it is significantly less invasive than other cardiac support systems, which work by implanting valves or screw pumps inside the ventricle“.

Certainly it is visible that the device comes with lot of benefits. But the fact of the matter is that it is still in a very budding stage and a lot of improvements need to be made and lot of hurdles to be crossed before this tiny little DEAP pumps can be used as an aid for weakened and healing hearts. Though Director of LAI is definitely leaving no stone unturned as he is in contact with University Hospital of Berlin for Clinical Trials.

Featured image credit: Human heart. © intueri (Stock Photo ID: 132903194)

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