Scientists Test Out 3D-Printed Artificial Heart
ETH researchers from the Functional Materials Laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland led by doctoral student Nicholas Cohrs have developed a silicone artificial heart that resembles a natural heart in terms of appearance, size, internal mechanisms, and natural functions.
The team of scientists who developed the idea and created the silicone artificial heart through 3D printing believed that the natural heart should serve as a model for artificial ones considering the many complications caused by existing artificial heart replacements.
“… our goal is to develop an artificial heart that is roughly the same size as the patient’s own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function,” said Cohrs in a report by ETH Zurich.
The performance of the artificial heart made from silicone had been evaluated by mechanical engineer and doctoral student Anastasios Petrou led by Professor Mirko Meboldt of the Product Development Group Zurich and proven to fundamentally function as a natural heart would. Unfortunately, its tests revealed that it can only function up to 3,000 beats, which is roughly equivalent to 30 to 45 minutes, after which the material can no longer endure the strain.
Cohrs explained that “This was simply a feasibility test. Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts.”
Apart from developing a new avenue for artificial heart development, the researchers for this project were able to develop a testing environment that most closely simulates a real human cardiovascular system as well.
“Currently, our system is probably one of the best in the world,” Petrou exclaimed.
Cohrs and Petrou plan to continue the research on artificial heart in the future. “As a mechanical engineer, I would never have thought that I would ever hold a soft heart in my hands. I’m now so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts,” said Petrou.
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