Transplants generally require a long waiting period, and depending on the organ required by the patient, many people die waiting for their name to be called. Decades of research has gone into the creation of artificial organs in the hopes of eliminating the need for transplants, but science has yet to create the perfect creation process for artificial organs.
Heart transplants with artificial devices are the only option for some patience, but using a hard material makes it more difficult to make the device biologically compatible for extended periods of time. Researchers out of Functional Materials Laboratory of ETH Zurich University in Switzerland have created a new concept for artificial hearts, which they call the soft artificial heart. The researchers believe that developing an artificial heart that closely resembles a recipient’s own heart will decrease, or eliminate, the need for the patient to have another transplant surgery down the line. The record for the longest time living with a hard material artificial heart is five years.
The soft artificial heart utilizes silicone, which has the ability to mimic the material properties of human tissue to a certain extent. Silicone is ideal because it is an established material for other types of implants in the body and there is a wide option of suppliers. The silicone heart was designed using computer assisted design (CAD) software, producing a soft organ that resembles the human heart in composition, form, and function.
The researchers continue to look into other soft materials which could provide even better results that silicone. That research is still a long way away, but for now, the silicone based soft artificial heart could be the answer many transplant patients were looking for.