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Lead: Engineers are working on a removable heart pump that might one day let patients with end stage heart failure not only survive longer, but recover.
Randy Atkins: A heart that’s enlarged because of disease doesn’t pump blood well. Current treatments include drugs and ventricular assist devices that patients need indefinitely. John Criscione, a bioengineer at Texas A&M University, is focused instead on rehabilitating the heart.
John Criscione: I want to have the heart grow and remodel, basically shrink back down in size and become much more functional.
Randy Atkins: He’s created a device that would be inserted through a small hole in the chest. It opens to wrap around the lower half of the heart like cap, and then precisely squeezes to assist its pumping.
John Criscione: We push on the heart at the same time the heart is trying to eject blood. And then, over time, it looks like that motion will make the heart just start getting smaller. It’ll recover.
Randy Atkins: Criscione says since it never contacts circulating blood the device is unlikely to cause infections or clots, and could be removed for good after about three months…but clinical trials are still years away. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.