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Skipping the Beat
The “Beatless” Heart
Tyler Blake
Professor Ying Sun
University of Rhode Island
BME 281
“Wings that flap didn’t help mankind fly, so
why must a substitute heart beat like a
natural one? ‘Mother nature did the best
she could’”
~Billy Cohn, researcher at Texas Heart Institute
This past year a 55 year old man from Texas had
the first beatless heart transplant saving him
from a death doctors told him was 12 hours
away; he had no pulse and was technically flat
lined but was not dead.
The normal human heart works on a system using cardiac
• Electrical impulses tell cardiac muscles to squeeze
• Blood pushes through each of the heart's four chambers
• The pulse or “beat” allows for blood to circulate through
the body efficiently
Rather than using a “beating” mechanism that would mimic
the body’s heart, Dr. Cohn and Dr. Frazier devised a system
entirely different.
• They interconnected two ventricular assist devices
• The rotors in the devices work together to whirl around
the blood in the device
• The device propels the blood through the vascular
system in a continuous flow
Ventricular Assist Device
• Ventricular assist devices were invented in 1980
• Recently Dick Cheney had one implanted to help
with ventricular failure
• This past year has been the first time a complete
heart was created from two assisting devices.
• These devices connect the ventricles to the aorta
and so help each ventricle push the blood by
push the blood by battery powered rotors.
powered rotors.