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Indiana Doctor Developing First Heart Pump For Babies

Last updated on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Indiana researchers are on the cutting edge of developing the first heart pump for babies.

Stacia Matthews of RTV6 reports that artificial heart pumps have come a long way since they were approved for adults more than a decade ago, but there still isn't a pump for babies born with one heart chamber instead of two.

It's the leading cause of death from birth defects in babies, and only between 50 percent and 70 percent of infants survive the three open heart surgeries required to fix the problem.

"Our current treatment is good, but it's not perfect, and if this technology is developed, it could really change things around the world," said Dr. Mark Rodefeld, a researcher with the IU School of Medicine who is developing the infant pump.

Using the concept of a spinning top, the device pulls blood from the veins and pushes it into the arteries.

"Blood flow would be coming in this way and going out to the lungs that way, and there's never been a blood pump developed that would do this four directions of flow," Rodefeld said.

Babies would wear the pump temporarily, and those who do may not require so many operations.

Rodefeld's research, in collaboration with others at Purdue University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the University of Louisville, has received some federal funding, but needs more to develop the pump commercially.

"One of the problems with a device that's intended for children is it has a small market, and so for any pediatric device, it's difficult to get it funded through traditional venture capital funding and those types of things," Rodefeld said.

The researchers have also tweaked the design so that the pump could be implanted in adult patients as well.

Once they secure funding, it will take at least five years before the pump is tested in human trials.

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