• Question: Do you think 3D/prostetic hearts will be used in bodies, if so would you like to take part in these procedures?

    Asked by Elise to Emma, Jordan, Kate, Lucy, Pankaj, Samuel on 14 Jun 2018.
    • Photo: Pankaj Garg

      Pankaj Garg answered on 14 Jun 2018:


      Elise – very clever question.

      The answer is some centres in this country already use the prosthetic heart as a bridging to some permanent solution like transplant for their patients with heart disease.

      The problem is all prosthetic hearts are recognised by the body as foreign objects and the body reacts to them and hence they are never a permanent solution.

    • Photo: Samuel Vennin

      Samuel Vennin answered on 14 Jun 2018:


      This is a great question!
      3D hearts aren’t used much in the body, but clinicians start using them to prepare operations. They take lots of pictures of the patient’s heart and create computer models from it that they then 3D print. This way, they have a heart that looks exactly like the one they will operate. They can hence rehearse the procedure before operating the patient.
      As Pankaj said, prosthetic hearts are already used but only a temporary solutions.
      Another possibility that aims to be more permanent and made the headlines over the past few years are artificial hearts. Researchers started putting them in a few selected patients and are still in the process of seing how these patients adapt to it so that they can improve these heart models. Here is a video explaining how they did that:

      So far, all the patients died but it is not the fault of the heart, more of their body that couldn’t adapt to this new heart. It is like putting a brand new powerful engine in an old car whose pipes haven’t been changed. It won’t take very long before the car start having troubles… The main problems so far is that these heart models are much heavier than the original ones (about 1.2kg vs 0.3kg) and they need a battery that the patient must carry around. Not very practical… But this is a great and very promising start! I would love working on such a project one day 🙂

    • Photo: Emma Wellham

      Emma Wellham answered on 19 Jun 2018:


      Great question. There is already a ‘total artificial heart’ available, but as the other scientists have said, at the moment, it’s not a permanent solution, and only given to patients who are waiting for a heart transplant, so that they will stay alive longer to wait for an organ donor match. My hospital was the first centre to implant the total artificial heart in the UK, and at one point were the only hospital in the UK to do it (there might be more now.)

      There is a man living in Cambridge at the moment where I live. Paramedics told me that because the artificial heart moves blood continuously, and doesn’t beat like a real heart, the man doesn’t have a pulse!

      Here is an article about the first man to go home with a total artificial heart in the UK: https://www.royalpapworth.nhs.uk/latestnews/index.php?newsid=186

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