Photo: Zurich Heart
Created from silicon using 3D printing, it looks like a real human heart and functions in a similar way, the university said in a statement.
The 390 gram heart has a left and right ventricle separated by an additional chamber that is inflated and deflated with air pressure, mimicking the pump action of the human heart.
It was developed by doctoral student Nicholas Cohrs as part of the Zurich Heart project, which brings together researchers from Zurich and Berlin to focus on improvements to existing blood pumps, used for patients with heart failure.
About 26 million people worldwide suffer from heart failure and there is a shortage of donor hearts.
Artificial blood pumps help bridge the gap while a donor is found or the patient’s own heart recovers, but their mechanical parts are susceptible to complications, explains the university.
“Therefore, our goal is to develop an artificial heart that is roughly the same size as the patient’s own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function,” said Cohrs.
An evaluation of the silicon heart’s performance, just published in the journal Artificial Organs, showed that the new heart works and moves in a similar way to a human heart.
However it only lasts for around 3,000 beats – around half an hour to 45 minutes – after which time the material cannot withstand the strain.
But researchers hope this is nevertheless a step forward in artificial heart development.
“This was simply a feasibility test. Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts,” said Cohrs.