A bionic heart under development at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston uses only a single moving part that levitates between magnets inside the device. That is one reason why researchers say this could be the first feasible commercial replacement for the human heart.
The short lifespans of past attempted bionic hearts have limited their usefulness. The heart beats thousands of times per hour and tens of millions of time per year, so the constant grind of moving parts will wear down a manufactured heart.
That problem could be overcome by the new model being built by BiVACOR at the Heart Institute. With only one moving part that never touches other parts, attrition is avoided. A spinning disk inside the heart constantly propels blood, instead of pumping it like a real heart.
According to ABC News, the device will spin two to three thousand times per minute, and the disk inside adjusts 20,000 times per second to keep spinning flat.
The device was initially designed by Daniel Timms, a mechanical engineer from Australia, and it was further developed under Billy Cohn, a surgeon at the Heart Institute.
“People bring in suitcases all the time with these devices, and by and large it’s a lot of crap,” Cohn, told the Chronicle. “When Daniel came in I realized almost immediately this was the mostly highly evolved and brilliant device I’ve ever seen. I immediately told him he should move to Houston.”
A team at the institute has been working on the prototype for years, and recently it’s been put into large animals with good results, ABC reports.
If the device proves successful, it could serve as a replacement for failing or diseased human hearts—one of the leading causes of death in the United States.