Isro's spin-off: Low-cost artificial heart pump

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12 Dec 2015
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In a major spin-off from space technology, the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) has developed a low-cost Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), an artificial heart pump, that has completed successful initial trials on animals.
The device is a mechanical pump that can be implanted in a person's chest to assist a weak heart pump blood through the body. "We have not yet reached that stage of testing. As of now, initial trials have been done on animals," said an Isro spokesperson, confirming the development.
The LVAD has been developed by a team of scientists at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and is expected to cost Rs 25-30 lakh. Similar devices otherwise cost crores of rupees. In a paper submitted to an international journal in 2011, a scientist from VSSC said: "LVADs are mechanical circulatory devices placed between the left ventricle and aorta that take over the function of a failing heart either partially or completely."
Says VSSC's Shinoy KS, one of the authors of the paper published in International Journal of Electrical, Computer, Energetic, Electronic and Communication Engineering: "Among the different LVADs available, our unique advantages include compact size, low power consumption, high power density and larger diameter-to-length ratio Axial Flux Permanent Magnet motors, the best choice for blood pump."
An advanced cardiac or heart failure may cause a drop in the output of the heart from its normal resting output of about five litres of blood per minute to around two litres a minute. As the output reaches this level, the kidneys, liver, and brain are damaged irreversibly, the paper reads.
Does the job of a heart: Experts say the LVAD doesn't replace the heart but helps it do its job. It enables the heart to perform its duty in case the organ needs rest, for instance after an open-heart surgery. "It's also useful for patients waiting for a transplant," said one of them.
The device has been made with a special titanium alloy used in rockets and also a technology used during launches. The titanium used is biocompatible and weighs only 100gm. Other studies show LVADs can be used as an alternative to transplant in case of terminally ill patients whose body condition render them unsuitable for transplants.
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