Machine Used For Research Keeps Animal Hearts Beating

New machine keeps animal hearts beatingNew machine keeps animal hearts beating

Scientists at North Carolina State University have developed a new machine that is designed to keep animal hearts beating so that they can be studied for research.

Researchers designed this machine so that they could develop new tools and techniques used for heart surgery. The machine is capable of keeping an animal’s heart pumping even after it has been removed from the body.

As of right now, most medical devices used in heart surgery are tested on live pigs, since they have heart valves that are similar to human heart valves. Not only is it expensive, it takes up a lot of time and this is why researchers have developed this new machine.

“Researchers can obtain pig hearts from a pork processing facility and use the system to test their prototypes or practice new surgical procedures,” says Andrew Richards, a Ph. D. student in mechanical engineering at NC State who designed the heart machine.

The machine is controlled through a computer, and also allows researchers to view the insides of the heart. “There will still be a need for testing in live animal models,” says Dr. Greg Buckner, who directed the project, “but this system creates an intermediate stage of testing that did not exist before. It allows researchers to do 'proof of concept' evaluations, and refine the designs, before operating on live animals.”

As for costs in the long-run? This machine makes the experiments much cheaper. “It costs approximately $25 to run an experiment on the machine,” says Richards, “whereas a similar experiment using a live animal costs approximately $2,500.”

This study was published in The Annals of Biomedical Engineering and was funded by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.