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The Development of an Artificial Heart

Mechanical Engineering

About the Project

Background: Heart failure is defined as the inability of the heart to pump and circulate blood around the body to provide nutrients to the various organs. Heart failure is therefore catastrophic if not attended to. Although advances in the medical management of such patients have given some improvement in mortality rates and patient’s life style, only 20% of patients respond to pharmacological treatments. This leaves about 50,000 people requiring an alternative treatment such as cardiac pacing (synchronisation). However, whilst the short-term outcome of pacing has proved satisfactory in 35% of patients, the long-term outcome has not been determined. If the pharmacological and pacing treatments are insufficient, heart transplantation becomes the obvious choice. However, the number of donors is decreasing each year, forcing the average waiting period for heart transplantation to increase; this is currently extending to many months in the UK with known immunological limitations further delaying transplantation. If the patient cannot survive the waiting period, a cardiac assist device becomes the only remaining option. All tolled, there is a huge annual potential demand for left ventricle assist devices (LVADs). The development of any serious LVAD inherently requires all of the following crucial issues to be addressed: 1. Biocompatability: the LVAD is made of a material ensuring the body will not reject the device after plantation. 2. Thrombosis: is the formation of blood clots due to the existence of areas of flow stagnation. 3. Haemolysis: which is the damage to blood cells as they maybe exposed to excessive and cyclical higher stresses. 4. Size of the device: upon which will be determined the position where the device will be placed. 5. Power supply: which is related to how long the patient can be away from the battery charger and how the power is actually transferred to the implanted device. The student aspiring to work on this project will need to have a mechanical, electrical or biomedical engineering background. The student will join a lively group with potential collaboration with clinicians working in the area. If you would like to be part of developing a live saving machine, we will be happy to hear from you.

Funding Notes

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: View Website. Recently the UK Government made available the Doctoral Student Loans of up to £25,000 for UK and EU students and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

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