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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 18:35 GMT
Space technology helps heart pump


The pump helps patients waiting for transplants


NASA computer experts have helped improve a heart pump which keeps patients alive while they await a transplant.

The experts suggested improvements after simulating blood flow through the pump using a NASA computer that normally models the flow of fluids through a rocket.

So far, 25 patients have been implanted with the pumps.

The battery-powered pump's blade spins as fast as 12,500 rpm - and scientists working on the project said the flow was similar to a rocket engine.

However, the scientists were able to solve two major problems.

Friction damaged blood cells because the device created turbulent flows through many pump parts - and there were stagnant regions in the pump that caused potentially dangerous blood clots.

Following supercomputer simulations, the NASA researchers were able to reduce red blood cell damage, and reduce the tendency for blood clots to form.

"Without the support of the NASA supercomputer design experts, the pump would not function as efficiently as it has," said Dallas Anderson, president and CEO of MicroMed, the company which makes the pump.

The device can pump more than 10 litres of blood per minute, about twice a normal heart's pumping needs.

Eight of the patients with implanted pumps have already gone on to have heart transplants.

Space Shuttle

The pump is based in part on technology used in Space Shuttle fuel pumps.

Developers predict that the heart pump will not only be a long term "bridge" to transplant, but will serve as a more permanent device to help recovering patients lead a more normal life.

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See also:
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01 Feb 99 |  Health
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