An animation released by Nasa on social media on 8 March showcases a new piece of technology which could give hope to people born with a missing ventricle. The video shows a heart motor pump that uses flywheel technology produced by Doctor Mark Rodefeld at Nasas Glenn Research Center.
Flywheel technology is a type of technology that features a motor gaining incredible speed and then maintaining the energy produced as rotational or kinetic energy. Rhodes states on Nasas website that the idea behind the pump is to help those, particularly children, who are born with half a heart and therefore lack the full system to pump blood round their bodies.
The current method of dealing with this problem is to have a heart transplant or the Fontan procedure, which is a set of surgeries that creates a passive version of the blood pumping system within the heart. Rodefelds solution was to create a small conical pump, driven by an electrical motor to be placed into an existing heart network. This would reproduce the pressures and flow coming from the body and head, reducing the wear and tear on the single remaining ventricle and extend the life of the patient.
A team of scientists and researchers spent two years designing and creating prototypes based on Rodefelds idea and their initial tests have been successful. But Nasa states on its website that further development is needed as the pump will need to be the size of a nickel in order to work. Rodefeld hopes that he will be able to engage more engineers at Glenn in the development of the project, with the goal of advancing this life-saving technology in young patients.