Tuesday, April 1, 2014

No Pulse but Still Alive: An Artificial Heart Without a Beat

I was hanging out with some friends over the weekend. We someone got on the topic of artificial organs, and the progress with them. My friend Ben brought up a very cool artificial heart. He said that there was an artificial hear created that did not beat. Therefore, a person with that heart would not have a heartbeat or a pulse. They would appear dead based on how we check for life. I decided to go in hunt of an article on this artificial heart. Surprisingly there were many different articles found on Google search on this subject.

I read up on one on NPR from 2011. Two doctors Dr. Billy Cohn and Dr. Bud Frazier at the Texas Heart Institute developed a machine from two ventricular assisting devices. “The doctors say the continuous-flow pump should last longer than other artificial hearts and cause fewer problems. That's because each side has just one moving part: the constantly whirling rotor”. The blood is just pushed straight through the artificial pump and allows for a continuous flow. With this device you will not hear a heartbeat, or feel a pulse, and when hooked up to an EKG you would flat line. What is interesting to know is that there is no reason for blood to be pumped versus a continuous flow. The only reason it pumps is because that is how the heart itself functions. Also because of how the pump functions it has a very low rate for failure. With a lack of moving parts there is a far less chance of a malfunction or failure. The end of the article ends with Cohn and Frazier hoping to prove to humans a pulse does not mean life, and a search for FDA approval.

The real question I think is will humans ever feel that without a pulse they can be human. The rhythmic feeling we have within our bodies is something that we associate with vitality and life. Even though this form of artificial heart may function better, and allow for blood to flow better throughout the body I think humanity will find it pulse flaw to be a major one.  One possible solution is that a pulse could be created to allow for someone to feel alive. But I think that this would take away from the free slowing form of the artificial heart. It will be interesting to see if these beatless hearts will begin to become the norm for transplant patients without anymore options. Will we have a human race walking around without any heartbeats or pulses soon? And if we do how will we define being alive, how will it be proven?

1 comment:

  1. This is such a cool effect: "a pulse could be created to allow for someone to feel alive." In this way, the thing that is supposed to answer the question "am I alive?" is now a manufactured effect unrelated to the actual answer. Could that fake tick keep ticking even after death? Or would we link it to some organic function so that the fake tick WOULD stop ticking if we died...therefore making it now somehow real? Just a super cool set of questions that tackle the fundamental question of what makes us alive...


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