Aug. 28, 1998 BOSTON, Aug. 27--A research team at Pennsylvania State University is studying the performance and stability of an artificial heart chamber, or artificial blood sac, and its ability to help the heart circulate blood. The devices, which are biocompatible and thus not rejected by the body, could improve and extend the lives of the millions of Americans who have diseased hearts, said James Runt, Ph.D., a faculty member in the University's Materials Science and Engineering Department. He described his work here today (Aug. 27) at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The artificial devices are made of a polymer material called polyurethaneurea [polyYURehTHANEyurE-ah].
The blood sacs could also augment the functions of total artificial hearts, which continue to be studied at research centers here and abroad, said Dr. Runt. His research team is presently evaluating blood sacs from total artificial hearts that had been implanted in cows for over four months. The ultimate goal is to produce blood sacs that will help human or artificial hearts to circulate blood for five years or more, Dr. Runt said. His work is conducted in conjunction with Penn State's Hershey Medical Center Section on Artificial Organs.
In another related paper at the American Chemical Society meeting, Dr. Michael Szycher, Ph.D., of CardioTech International, Inc., Woburn, Mass., reported that blood vessels made of an elastic, polyurethane-based material have carried blood to the hearts of test animals for over two years.
The polymer vessels are designed to be used in heart bypass operations, which are performed more than 500,000 times a year. The artificial vessels are designed to substitute for the saphenous vein, the major vein in the leg that is most often used to replace clogged coronary arteries. Since most saphenous veins fail after about 12 years, and because removing the vein from the leg can interfere with circulation from the leg to the heart, scientists have been looking for artificial replacements for nearly two decades, he said.
Dr. Szycher said human trials are underway in Europe in which the polymer vessels are being used to cleanse the blood of kidney patients during renal dialysis. They also have potential uses as replacements for hardened arteries in the legs of diabetes patients who have lost circulation to the lower part of their legs, he said.
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