For 100,000 patients worldwide in need of a heart transplant each year there are only 4,000 donors

Second patient given artificial heart in early trials

The second patient has been fitted with an artificial heart developed by French company Carmat to continue clinical trials of the cutting edge technology.

Carmat’s heart, based on aerospace technology developed by Airbus, mimics nature's work using biological materials and sensors. The device is designed as an ultimate replacement for a patient’s failing heart instead of a transplantation of an organ from a human donor.

The 900g device, almost three times the weight of an average human heart, was first implanted into the body of a heart failure sufferer this March. The 76 year old man died only two and a half months after the operation.

However, Carmat said, the early clinical trials were being carried out on patients with terminal heart failure who only had weeks or days to live. The company thus considers the trial successful if the patient survives for at least a month.

Carmat’s heart, powered by wearable lithium ion batteries, mimics heart muscle contractions and adapts the blood flow to the patient's moves The heart’s internal surfaces, which come in contact with human blood, are made of bovine tissue instead of synthetic materials known to increase the risk of blood clots.

The company hopes the device could give hope to patients on the transplantation waiting lists who only have little hope as donors are scarce.

Carmat said it would not publish any results before the feasibility study is completed. If the results of these first safety tests are positive, Carmat would fit the device into about 20 patients with less severe heart failure, with an aim to request the right to market its device in Europe by 2015.

Among Carmat's competitors for artificial heart implants are privately-held US companies SynCardia Systems and Abiomed.

Current treatment of heart failure is mostly focused on relieving symptoms. Patients are under medication, provided cardiovascular rehabilitation and surgery to improve the functioning of the failing heart.

In advanced stages, the only hope is cardiac transplantation but the discrepancy between the demand and supply is enormous. There are more than 100,000 patients on the waiting lists around the world but only 4,000 donor hearts available.

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