back to article Texan boffins working on electric cyber-heart

Texas-based engineers have announced they are working towards a radical new "pulseless" artificial heart, able to act as a complete replacement for a normal human one. Matt Franchek and Ralph Metcalfe, mechanical engineers at Houston Uni, will team up with medico-boffins at the Texas Heart Institute. The idea is to completely …

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I for one welcome our new Vampiric Overlords.

So if no pulsing then the person wearing it has no pulse - there would be a steady flow of blood.

So you arrive at an accident site and check for a pulse, and find nothing.

So you apply CPR and kill him.

Nice...........

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Anonymous Coward

Arteries

Arteries have evolved to be elastic and strong to cope with the pulses in pressure of a beating heart. How's this "constant pressure" system going to affect circulation ? I know having a heart that's struggling with the pressure dynamics of its system a bit is better than having no heart at all, but I suspect that's going to be a factor in keeping artificial heart efficiency down...

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Anonymous Coward

Cyborg

Its the first step in a cyborg army.

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Bronze badge

I seem to recall NASA doing this

back when I was at school - the major difficulty was trying not to destroy red blood cells with the rotor.

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At last ...!

"Cyber" used in its correct, "control systems" usage !!

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Be interesting to see.

I would also like to know the implications of not having a pulse on the individual's health.

And on the steadiness of someone's hand. If it helps perhaps it should be compulsory for all surgeons?

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@ David Bell

"So if no pulsing then the person wearing it has no pulse - there would be a steady flow of blood.

So you arrive at an accident site and check for a pulse, and find nothing.

So you apply CPR and kill him."

I don't think so... The reason applying CPR to a healthy person could kill them is that it could force the heart to beat incorrectly, interrupting the normal flow of blood. As long as the artificial heart wasn't susceptible to that interruption, that shouldn't be a problem, AFAIK.

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@HFoster

CPR wouldn't be a big problem, but I bet that a defib would screw things about, even a biphasic defibrillator.

I bet it would be very, very unsettling for the recipient of the heart to be walking around with no pulse. I bet you'd miss it if it wasn't there!

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Paris Hilton

well, I don't know about you

But I, for one, welcome our artificial heart overlords.

Paris,' cos she wants to know if you have a heart on for her.

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@ David Bell

Perhaps the unit could be fitted with a small speaker in order to produce artifical heart sounds, similar to electric cars being fitted with speaker to play fake engine sounds.

Seriously though, this is good work, but with heart disease being one of the biggest causes of death, the population is going to explode. I wonder how much one of these will extend the average lifespan.

Also, I don't think the circulatory system will have any problems dealing with this as the overall pressure will be lower. I do wonder whether the constant flow will have any weird effects on the body though, perhaps just because some systems work best with a pulsed blood supply. I'm no biology expert though so I have no idea whether any such systems exist, was just a curious thought :)

The unit could react to demand by monitoring the difference in oxygen levels leaving and entering the unit. I'm not up to date with my medical technology so I don't know whether something like that is possible on this scale. Anyone else know anything about this? I'm quite interested in learning more.

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The last time I looked at the bioengineering of hearts

The researchers seemed pretty certain that a pulse was *necessary* for the well-being of the arteries, kidneys and other parts of the circulatory system - and that was the main reason it was so difficult to make an artificial one.

All our bits evolved with blood being pumped around in pulses - static pressure is almost certainly going to cause issues.

There are a lot of human-designed systems that rely on pulsed power and fail (in some cases quite spectacularly) if fed continuous power.

Just try running a transformer on DC...

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Dangerous to be an early adopter...

The circulatory system is used to having a pulse. I doubt very much it can work properly without one. Even having a pulse which is too regular can cause health problems. With a regular flow, I would guess you would soon have accumulation of fat or dead blood cells in some corners, leading to the clogging of small arteries.

I predict a short lifespan for the first person using it. Or rather, I hope they test it on animals before. Yes, that's me putting the health of human beings before that of animals.

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Coat

WORLD DOMINATION.

Finally, my plans will come into fruition!

May the Metal-Heart Cyborg armies rise...

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Lifespans are relative

"I predict a short lifespan for the first person using [a pulseless artificial heart]."

Yeah, and I predict a short lifespan for the average person who needs a replacement heart due to heart disease.

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Coat

No pulse?

S'pose I'll have to revise my criteria for "shaggable", then.

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Gates Horns

@ Matt

Actually, the population won't explode, for the simple reason that any of these life-prolonging devices will only ever be available to the deserv^H^H^H^H^H^H the super-rich. Your average breed-like-rabbits chav won't have access to this technology, now or in the future :)

People like Gates and Branson might well live to be 700 years old, but you and I... we'll still be doing well to see our centenary, if that!

Gates devil icon because with this tech he could well see his 666th birthday...

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Argh it's a zombie!

Wait, walking around with no pulse? Agh Zombies!

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Anonymous Coward

@Dave Gregory

I agree that the defib would be a problem, but you could probably address that with a tattoo on your chest. Now that you mention it, though, walking around without a pulse would be strange. Like driving a CVT car, but more so.

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Just a thought

Did it really say "large external unit" to provide "pneumatic pressure" ?

And that is supposed to be hooked to an artificial heart in someone's chest ?!?

Yikes !

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@ratfox

"I predict a short lifespan for the first person using it. Or rather, I hope they test it on animals before. Yes, that's me putting the health of human beings before that of animals."

Me too - but mainly because they test this sort of kit on people who will die in a few days without intervention.

And am I a bad person for having as my first thought not "What a breakthough for the sick" but "What a cool spy/assassin gadget!" Get involved in a shoot out (whilst wearing a kevlar vest & a few blood bags), fall to the floor, bad guys check carotid pulse, they say "He's dead" and walk off and you rise from the dead behind them!

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Coat

Re "Just try running a transformer on DC..."

That's completely spurious: a transformer is not "designed" for AC any more than, oh, metals are designed to be conductive.

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Unhappy

Time?

Will you loose your sense of time without a pulse?

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Boffin

And why not

I remember hearing about a similar device some 5 or so years ago: perhaps the early mooting of this one or a life-support-only system; but the basic idea isn't novel as such.

As for long term effect of constant pressure c.f. pulsed pressure: the change in pressure ain't all that great really and, frankly, if you're getting an artifical heart imlpanted, I suspect you are already not in the best of health. At least I'd hope so. Unless you are captin cyborg of course.

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Happy

body fat

If they make one that runs on body fat then I see a large market, even for those without dicky tickers.

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Metabolising implants ?

Ideal for the morbidly obese. Better than a tapeworm, certainly. Use the energy in fat reserves without having to do any work. rather than harness the energy produced to run a heart, have an iPod dock put in place of one's belly button.

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Anonymous Coward

Change in Pressure is required!

Folks,

Looks like this pump might be good for temporary operation perhaps but several commentators (Richard in particular) have mentioned the biological need for a pulse. This is especially important regarding kidneys and I suspect the liver as they both work on the principle of a semipermeable membrane filtration system somewhat similar to the mechanical production of oxygen by the PSA (pressure swing absorbtion) method. The decrease in blood pressure between pulses probably serves to clear the filter (kidney) so it's ready for more waste to pass through it. The other fellow who mentioned the fragility of red blood cells was also on the mark (Mixmaster Anyone?)

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Happy

@henry wertz

Argh it's a zombie!

Wait, walking around with no pulse? Agh Jacqui!

Oh, sorry, went over center line there..

Getting my coat and leaving now. Time for a little lie down.

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Anyone remember The Invaders?

TV series starring Roy Thinnes as David Vincent? The aliens in that (who, unsurprisingly for those times, were sneaky communist fifth column analogues) had no heartbeat either. This was probably down to the fact that they had no blood either, and so didn't bleed when they were cut.

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