Spin off of the space technology into an artificial heart (LVAD, a blood pumping device) by Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) can now save lives.
In an major Make In India Innovation for the artificial heart a team of ISRO’s Rocket Scientists at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) have been successful in building a small device that can pump blood while spinning off the material and technology used in rocket science.
A team of about two dozen experts like metallurgists, electronic engineers, flow mechanics and conduction specialists have worked for over six years to build the pump and they describe it as work in progress. The device is a mechanical pump that can be implanted in a person’s chest to assist a weak heart pump blood through the body.
This Made-in-India low cost Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) weighs 100 gm and will help people who need heart transplants, replicating the function of a part of the heart that pumps blood.
The device is made of biocompatible titanium alloy and can pump blood at the rate of 3 to 5 litres per minute. Similar imported heart pumps cost crores of rupees, but the ISRO version is expected to cost only Rs. 1.25 lakh.
It is being tested right now by a team of surgeons on animals and is expected to be ready for use on humans only after a few years of extensive testing. The device was recently tested on five pigs at a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram for a six-hour experiment which doctors said was successful.
“Material used in a rocket, the mechanism used in a rocket, electronics used in a rocket are combined to form the device… which is useful as a first step towards heart transplantation. This device was tested in a pig, and it was found that the pig was alive after fitting it. The other organs of the animal were intact. This shows that it is a very good alternative for an artificial heart,” says Dr K Sivan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.
In a paper submitted to an international journal in 2011, a scientist from VSSC said: “LVADs are mechanical circulatory devices placed between the left ventricle and aorta that take over the function of a failing heart either partially or completely.”
An advanced cardiac or heart failure may cause a drop in the output of the heart from its normal resting output of about five litres of blood per minute to around two litres a minute. As the output reaches this level, the kidneys, liver, and brain are damaged irreversibly, the paper reads. The LVAD is designed to pump blood at the rate of 3 to 5 litres per minute.