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HomeInformation3D-printed tubular pump provides alternative to heart transplant
Smart aortic pump

3D-printed tubular pump provides alternative to heart transplant

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Heart failure is a serious condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure. Heart failure cannot be cured, for serious heart failure, the best form of treatment is a heart transplant, but the demand by far outweighs the supply as around 160,000 people require one in Europe each year, but only 600 donor hearts are available.

A smart material which expands when a voltage is applied to it would surround an inner woven tube to act as a pump. The tube would be made using origami-type auxetic techniques which allow it to collapse and expand. Using 3D printing techniques, the research team aims for the smart pump to be tailor-made to each patient by using MRI scan data.

Developed by Dr Philip Breedon and other researchers at Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust in UK, the "smart aortic pump" is coated in a smart material which expands when a voltage is applied to it would surround an inner woven tube to act as a pump. It would create a counter blood-flow by pumping out of phase with the diseased heart. When the heart fills with blood, the woven tube would contract to increase pressure in the heart. When the heart then pumps oxygenated blood around the body, the tube would expand to release the pressure and increase the blood flow.

The device – for which a patent has been filed – would create a counter blood-flow by pumping out of phase with the diseased heart. When the heart fills with blood, the woven tube would contract to increase pressure in the heart. When the heart then pumps oxygenated blood around the body, the tube would expand to release the pressure and increase the blood flow.

An artist´s impression of the smart aortic pump being

developed by Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham University Hospitals

The pump would be powered by an implanted battery and would be entirely self-contained, without the need for the patient to be hospital bedbound or connected to large machinery via catheters and transdermal lines.

Dr Philip Breedon, a reader in smart technologies at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, who is leading the research team, said: “This device could really be ground-breaking and more effective than any other therapy currently being used around the world. Chronic heart failure is a major health challenge and up to 40% of sufferers die within the first year. The best form of treatment is a heart transplant, but the demand by far outweighs the supply as around 160,000 people require one in Europe each year, but only 600 donor hearts are available.

“The technology currently used to help people with acute heart failure can only be used for a few days and involves the patient being attached to large external machines which need to be plugged into the mains power supply. The smart aortic graft has the potential to not only extend a patient’s life, but also to provide them with mobility, comfort and a reduced need for carers.”

The team is currently working on the rechargeable batteries so no operation is needed for replacing battery from time to time.

Using 3D printing techniques, the research team aims for the smart pump to be tailor-made to each patient by using MRI scan data.


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