Surgeons in France have successfully implanted an artificial heart into a patient suffering from heart disease. According to The Telegraph, the artificial heart, made partly from bovine tissue, could add as much as five years to the 75-year-old patient’s life.
“This news brings great pride to France,” Marisol Touraine, France’s health minister, told reporters, according to The Telegraph. “It shows we are pioneers in health care, that we can invent, that we can carry an innovation that will also bring great hope to plenty of people.”
A team of surgeons performed the transplant at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris on Wednesday. The artificial heart, which weighs just less than 2 pounds, is made of several soft “biomaterials” and a variety of sensors that simulate the contractions of a real heart, and is powered by a battery belt that is worn outside the body. The patient who received the artificial heart is said to be recovering well.
"The intervention took place in good conditions ... There were no complications linked to the innovative nature of the implant operation," said Christian Latremouille, one of the doctors who performed the operation, during a press conference. "He is not walking yet, but we will try to get him sitting and then standing soon enough. The objective is for him to have a normal life."
As Inventor Spot noted, this isn’t the first time an artificial heart was implanted in a patient. In fact, similar products have been in use since the late 1960s. But those devices only offered partial assistance to the heart. Other artificial hearts on the market are also considered temporary fixes; nothing has ever fully replaced a human heart.
“We’ve already seen devices of this type but they had a relatively low autonomy,” Alain Carpentier, the surgeon who performed the implant, told reporters, according to The Telegraph. “This heart will allow for more movement and less clotting. The study that is starting is being very closely watched in the medical field.”
The artificial heart implanted on Wednesday was developed by French biomedical firm Carmat. According to Reuters, the company is seeking further funding from investors to break into a multibillion-dollar global market. Since the company hit the Paris stock market in 2010, its shares have risen five-fold.
At a steep price of more than 130,000 euros ($177,700 USD), the artificial heart won’t be accessible to most people, but experts believe there’s a potential market of roughly 100,000 people in the U.S. and Europe who would get in line for one.
"The medical need is significant, with a market potential of several billion euros," Carmat co-founder Philippe Pouletty told reporters. "The issue is whether it will be reimbursed by health-care systems. We are confident about that [since] much less sophisticated artificial hearts of comparable cost are already authorized and reimbursed in a number of countries."