For children born with only one functional half of the heart ("single-ventricle heart") and in whom the cardiovascular system fails, there is currently no effective, long-term treatment option other than a heart transplant. However, working in collaboration with the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH, Power Electronic Systems Laboratory), MedUni Vienna's Department of Cardiac Surgery has now been able to demonstrate for the first time in an animal model that an implantable miniature blood pump can effectively replace the right ventricle of children with only one functioning half of the heart.
"Together with these partners, the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the Medical University of Vienna has set itself the goal of developing a unique therapy for these patients," say the two project leaders at MedUni Vienna, Daniel Zimpfer and Marcus Granegger.
Pump's high potential confirmed
The new, innovative pump technology was invented and developed by an interdisciplinary team under the technical leadership of Marcus Granegger and the medical leadership of Daniel Zimpfer (both MedUni Vienna) and Michael Hübler (UKE Hamburg).
The two paediatric heart surgeons have now succeeded in implanting this pump in a novel animal model at MedUni Vienna's Center for Biomedical Research (headed by Prof. Bruno Podesser). "The pump was able to fully replace the right half of a sheep's heart for several hours. The results confirm the pump's potential to normalise the circulatory status of patients with 'single-ventricle hearts' without substantially damaging the blood," explain Granegger and Zimpfer.
The next step of the project involves further studies to investigate the long-term effects of this novel therapy. The researchers hope that, in the next few years, this technology will translate into a medical device that will allow children with only half a heart to live a normal life and enjoy a high quality of life.