Thiruvananthapuram: Rocket science may not be able to fix broken hearts, but very soon technology mastered at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) may be able to help patients who are in need for a heart transplant.
Materials and mechanisms used on Indian rockets have been tweaked by ISRO to make a device which some describe as a step towards the making of an ‘artificial heart’.
The heart assist device has been tested on animals and found to be successful.
Better known for orbiting satellites and flying giant rockets, the team at ISRO made this heart pump as a spinoff technology development in the spare time. Cardiologists are very excited with this development as it offers a lease of life to terminally-ill patients since heart transplant still remains out of reach for most.
Using materials and knowhow perfected to make lightweight rockets and satellites, scientists at ISRO have perfected a device that assists the human heart to pump blood especially in cases where the left ventricle, the most powerful part of a human heart, starts to fail.
Called the ‘left ventricular assist device’ this small electrical device can pump 3-5 litres of blood every minute. Kiran Kumar, the chairman of ISRO said this rocket technology offered an alternate system to pump blood in very ill patients and can definitely save human lives.
The special pump made by the Indian space agency can also be powered using an indigenously made highly energy dense battery, the Lithium Ion cell, that has also for the first time been made in India again by another team of rocket scientists.
The pump, which weighs about 100 grams can be fitted inside the body or placed externally and it needs a hook up to a battery to power it.
Made from a special alloy of titanium the device is ‘bio-compatible’ says K Sivan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), in Thiruvananthapuram where the special heart pump has been mastered.
The device pumps blood using a common technology called a centrifugal pump. The electronics and the magnets used in the tiny pump have been fabricated by the same engineers who make lightweight systems used on Indian satellites.
The device which is akin to an artificial heart has been tested on half a dozen pigs. The pig survived a full 6 hours, which was the full design of the experiment.