Cardiologists have a keen interest in 3D printing. A number of hospitals are already using the technology to build accurate models of patient’s hearts so that surgeons can be better prepared for complex operations.
Researchers at ETH Zurich’s Functional Materials Laboratory and the Product Development Group Zurich have printed a silicon artificial heart that beats almost like the real thing. They hope to perfect the device so that it can be used as a blood pump for patients who are waiting for a heart transplant.
“[O]ur 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 Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student in the research group.
The flexible heart was printed using a lost-wax casting technique. It includes a right and left ventricle, and operates using pressurized air to pump fluid from the chambers. The goal is to create an artificial heart that operates as closely to a real heart as possible, which is why printing a model that is the same size and shape as a human heart was an important component of the project.
The Product Development Group Zurich has developed a testing environment to simulate the human cardiovascular system. The two organizations also collaborated on the Zurich Heart Project through the University of Medicine Zurich.
According to the team, the current model can only last for roughly 3,000 beats (or around half an hour) before the material fails. It is described as a “silicone mono block with complex inner structure,” and weights 390 grams.
The research was published in the journal Artificial Organs. You can see the heart in action in the video below.
Source: ETH Zurich