As early as next fall, the Utah 100 artificial heart, which has received an extra $2.4 million shot of adrenalin, could be used as a temporary blood pump for someone waiting a human organ transplant.
"We think the Utah 100 is ready for human application," said Dr. Donald B. Olsen, director of the University of Utah Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Division of Artificial Organs. "We also will be studying it for future use as a totally implantable heart."To ensure this ambitious goal, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in the National Institutes of Health has awarded the Utah researchers a five-year, $2.4 million grant to continue studies on the artificial heart.
This latest money, along with earlier grants totaling almost $6.7 million from the NIH, the Utah Centers for Excellence program and the U., has accelerated research efforts.
It was only in January that Olsen said the goal was to produce the device by 1992 so researchers are well ahead of schedule.
In fact, the U.'s Institutional Review Board for Research with Human Subjects has approved use of the artificial device in people, and an application to the federal Food and Drug Administration should be sent this spring.
"We will use the air-powered heart as a bridge" to transplant, says Dr. William A. Gay Jr., professor and chairman of surgery of the U.'s School of Medicine. "We'd like to have an opportunity to
work out some of the bugs so that we would be able to have a totally implantable artificial heart. It's an evolutionary process; we learn something new every time we use it."
Although Gay said he hopes they never have to use the heart, he admits this is unrealistic, due to the limited supply of donor hearts.
In the past three years, UTAH Cardiac Transplant program surgeons have performed 143 human heart transplants. Originally, doctors thought they might perform up to 20 a year, but if the current rate continues, they may do as many as 80 a year. More patients have died waiting transplant than have died after receiving one.
"There aren't enough human hearts available for everyone who needs them," Gay said. "The ultimate answer has to be one of two things, and we must pursue both vigorously. One is to develop the artificial heart to the point where it is totally implantable. The second possibility is to progress so far that we can graft tissues or organs from other animals into humans."
Olsen said the Utah 100 represents an innovation in total artificial heart design. Elliptically shaped, the device is smaller than the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, which was implanted in the chest of Dr. Barney Clark in 1982. It was the world's first human implant of such a device.
In animal studies, the Utah 100 is operated with both an air-powered pump and an electrically driven hydraulic motor. With the air-powered pump, a calf has lived 10 months and a sheep 11 months. With the electrically powered version, an animal has survived for 29 days.
Olsen said the latest funding will help make use of the artificial heart in humans a reality.