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Artificial heart powered by China's aerospace technology saves patient

(Xinhua)    09:44, February 25, 2021

A doctor explains the patient's condition after the surgery. (Photo provided to Xinhua)

CHENGDU, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese man was discharged from hospital after an artificial heart powered by China's aerospace technology was implanted into him to replace his failed organ.

Called HeartCon, the medical device functions as a pump to deliver blood to the whole body, significantly alleviating the symptoms of heart failure.

"I feel much better. I couldn't stand up before, but now I can live normally with the small device," said the 30-year-old patient surnamed Li. After months of treatment, he was discharged from the West China Hospital of Sichuan University on Monday as his heart condition improved.

Li had been suffering from chest tightness and shortness of breath since 2019. He had waited anxiously for a heart transplant, but there was a lack of donors. His obesity also left him in a critical condition.

On Jan. 13, a medical team implanted an artifical heart into the patient at the hospital.

"As a lack of donors limits human organ transfers, the artificial heart will be a very promising cure to prolong lives of patients who are in advanced stages of heart failure," said An Qi, lead of the team and the hospital's chief heart surgeon.

According to An, the artificial heart weighs only 180 grams. Implanting a HeartCon requires tiny wires to pass through the patient's belly to connect a controller and two external batteries. Each battery lasts for 10 hours.

The patient also gets a shower pack to keep the device from getting wet while bathing.

The implantable device in the patient is the third-generation HeartCon, developed by a tech company affiliated with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the country's leading rocket maker.

Xu Jian, chief engineer of the HeartCon project, said the artificial heart works like a rocket's servomechanism, which is driven by a hydraulic pump.

A servomechanism uses feedback to control an operation.

"The servomechanism on a rocket has higher requirements of speed and power, while the artificial heart demands more focus on safety and comfort as it is small and needs to be implanted," Xu said.

Scientists used magnetic and fluid levitation, which are used in rocket servo technology, to make the device in the nature of a mechanical pump to support heart functions while causing less damage to patient's blood than previous types.

In 2020, the domestically made HeartCon was given a clinical trial permit by the National Medical Products Administration.

There are at least 16 million people aged above 35 with failing hearts in China. For patients who are in advanced stages of heart failure, drugs are ineffective. Many die while waiting for a heart transplant.

The doctors believe the artificial heart will become the most effective tool to treat heart failure other than organ transplants.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Meng Bin, Liang Jun)

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