The New Yorker March 8, 2021 pp30-39|ANNALS OF TECHNOLOGY|”MISSING A BEAT” “Why it is so hard to build an artificial heart? By Joshua Rothman
Read the article for all details and backstories about researchers, physicians and patients.
Summary of the article
The is a story features Daniel Timms (CEO Bivacor) the man at the center of the Bivacor artificial heart. The discussion brings to life the decades-long struggle of researchers, engineers, and surgeons working to develop an effective artifical heart. A mechanical heart that can sustain quality as long as needed. It is also the story of patients starting in 1969 with Denton Cooley that willingly received a manmade heart while awaiting a suitable transplant.
Ultimately, many different devices have been developed and used successfully but temporarily over the years. Dick Cheney, the 46th vice president of the United States, is the best-known individual to receive at an artificial heart. He had implanted a HeartMate II keeping him alive between 2010 and 2012 when “he could receive a transplant.” Currently, there are “more than a thousand people each year [that] now receive HeartMate II or similar devices, living with them as they inch their way up the transplant list.”
This work dates back to as early as 1948 and along the way many have thought a bright future was soon to be in reach. As it is, the problem is not surprisingly complex-having to design a device capable of sustaining 35 million beats per year “pumping two thousand gallons of blood each day, for years on end”, be implantable, be able to maintain blood pressure all postures/activities and avoid becoming the nexus for life-threatening blood clots.
Over the years, researchers and surgeons have invested entire careers in advancing these technologies having to battle ethical and understandably long timelines for developing data that advances the technology from clinical trial to F.D.A. approval. The Bivacor is in this process using the latest technology, strategizing the best approach, and using precious investment dollars wisely in an effort to launch a next-generation artificial heart.
Two key goals come to mind. First is deploying a device that is capable of replacing current devices that are now being threatened by obsolescence. Second is creating an F.D.A. approved device so successful that more surgeons and more of 660,000 Americans that die of heart disease annually are compelled to use. Think as accepted as hip replacements. Currently, heart transplant is the imperfect gold standard for patients with end-stage heart failure. Only 4,000 are available each year while life-sustaining they “don’t last as long as native hearts.” “Many heart-transplant recipients are dead in ten years…only about five percent of transplant recipients make it to thirty years.”