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Monash-built artificial heart to compete in international contest

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A Monash University team has designed and built a new artificial heart that will be weighed up against global competition at the Heart Hackathon in Dallas this weekend.

The first total artificial heart (TAH) was put in a patient in 1969, but such TAHs remain a bridge-to-transplant for a real human heart.  

SynCardia, which is sponsoring the competition, is currently the only maker of an artificial heart clinically approved by the US FDA. Australian medtech company Hydrix is also among sponsors.

According to a statement from Monash, one in 50 Australians dies from heart failure, and almost no artificial heart implants are performed in Australia. 

Co-lead of the Monash Heart Hack team of 30 multidisciplinary participants, PhD student Julie Dao, said building a TAH is a tremendously complex challenge.

“It requires developing a miniaturised pump that can pump enough blood to support both sides of the circulatory system – systemic and pulmonary – while fitting into a fairly small space,” said Tao. 

“Furthermore, an artificial heart needs to automatically adjust its output when you transition from rest to exercise. It also needs to be fully biocompatible with surrounding tissue, have an external power source, be easy to implant, comfortable to wear and have minimal complications over a 10-plus year lifespan.”

Dao’s co-lead, biomedical science undergraduate student Georgia Brooks, said key innovations in their design include an impeller with backward spinning blades to reduce shear stress, a brushless motor system using magnetic levitation principles to generate motion, and a shaftless electrical system.

“Our modular design means we can produce the components in different sizes, ensuring more patients can receive an artificial heart irrespective of their body size,” said Brooks.

“The maglev motion system in our design means no internal mechanical components are in contact with each other, essentially eliminating mechanical wear on the materials and increasing the lifespan of the device.”

The competition is the world’s first student-led biomedical engineering and was developed by Monash Young MedTech Innovators.

Academic advisor to the Monash team and Director of the Cardio-Respiratory Engineering And Technology laboratory (CREATElab) at Monash’s Victorian Heart Hospital, Associate Professor Shaun Gregory, said the team deserved huge credit.

“They have taken an incredibly challenging concept and developed a novel design and a working prototype in a very short space of time,” said Gregory.

Picture: supplied

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