Cockroaches have multi-chambered hearts shaped like tubes that are much more resistant to failure than human hearts. The chambers are organized sequentially, each one pushing blood into the next, until the ideal output pressure is reached in the last chamber. Thus a single chamber failure in a cockroach heart is not cataclysmic to the organ; It can continue beating, but with less efficiency.
A team of biomedical engineers out of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (IITK), have developed a new artificial heart, modeled after this muti-chamber idea. But instead of shaping the heart as a tube, they’ve created the chambers in a series of concentric spheres like an onion. This should, if it works, make the artificial heart less prone to errors than current breed of failure-prone artificial hearts. Another great benefit is that the heart should be much less expensive than current models.
Along with his team of engineers, the heart’s inventor, Sujoy Guha, stole the show at a recent IITK technology conference. According to Guha, the heart is ready for clinical trials.
From the Telegraph India:
The device… draws inspiration from the heart of a cockroach which has a fail-safe mechanism. A cockroach’s heart has as many as 13 chambers, unlike the four in a human heart. As a result, failure of a single chamber in the former does not become life threatening unlike in the latter, says Guha. Moreover, the pumping of blood in a cockroach’s heart happens in a staged manner, which reduces the build up of pressure, often experienced in the human heart.
“The inventiveness of our work lies in recognising the merits of the cockroach’s heart and adapting them to the needs of the human system,” said Guha. Guha’s team, which has already tested the device on frogs, has recently sought permission to test it on goats. A patent application has also been filed for it.
“The technology is ready for clinical trials,” said Guha. “A series of diaphragms divides the load of the pump, thereby increasing its longevity,” he added. The internal flow is designed to prevent excessive blood recirculation, stagnation and mechanical trauma. An obvious advantage of such a device would be to lower the need for heart transplants. “With increased understanding of the heart’s functioning and continuing improvements in prosthetics, computer science, battery technology and fuel cells, a practical artificial heart may be a reality in the 21st century,” said Guha.