Human Heart: One step closer to ‘Unbreakable’ (Aug. 18, 2009) — A team of cardiac surgeons in Germany announced the successful implant of the world’s smallest ventricular assist device (VAD) and said that hearts may now be one step closer to “unbreakable.”

Heart_Assist.jpgThe HeartAssist 5, which is the fifth generation VAD made of plastic and titanium and weighs only one fifth of a pound.

The HeartAssist 5, VAD pumps blood an effective, gentle, and quiet manner from the weakened or failed left ventricle into the aorta.

A 50-year-old German patient suffered from heart failure that couldn’t be treated with medication or a heart transplant due to prior medical issues. The HeartAssist 5 is expected to work for the remainder of her life.

The VAD is also intended to serve as a “bridge-to-transplant” while patients who can be treated with a heart transplant wait for a match.

In the U.S., the HeartAssist 5 is the only FDA-approved pediatric VAD, while a bridge-to-transplant IDE (Investigational Device Exemption) clinical study is currently under way for adults.

Meanwhile, researchers have just received a $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue work on a totally artificial, pulse-less heart using two HeartAssist 5 VADs–one to circulate blood throughout the body, the other to circulate blood to and from the lungs.

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