Last week a 40-year old heart patient became the first person in the UK to walk the streets with an entirely artificial heart. He even managed a pub lunch with his family!
Thanks Kate for sending this over:)
His plastic heart, which was implanted whilst he awaits a human heart transplant, is powered by a portable driver about the size of a rucksack, that is carried whereever he goes. Previously, patients receiving a mechanical heart had to stay in hospital and be hooked up to a pretty large machine to drive it.
Unfortunately, plastic hearts are not a long-term solution. But whilst this technology isn’t yet a replacement for a real heart transplant, it can buy patients time as they wait for a suitable donor heart- and means that they can get on with their life whilst waiting, since they won’t have to live in hospital. Waiting lists for human hearts are long and patients can end up having to wait a year or longer- obviously not a good thing when needing a life-saving transplant.
Ultimately, a human heart transplant is the end goal for these types of heart patients- and someone has to die to make one available. Shouldn’t we be figuring out how to eliminate the need for human hearts entirely? Stem cell research to actually build biological hearts is looking promising, but that could be a while away, so for now we celebrate all medical advances that allow patients to live more ‘normal’ lives.