MOL

PARIS-An artificial heart has been transplanted into a patient for the first time in medical history, it was announced today. French medics said that a male patient was awake and responding well following Wednesday’s ground-breaking operation at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris.

Marcello Conviti, head of the Carmat biomedical firm, said: ‘We are delighted with this first implant, although it is premature to draw conclusions given that a single implant has been performed and that we are in the early postoperative phase.’ Mr Conviti said the artificial heart, which is three times the weight of a real one, would beat for at least five years.

Heart-assistance devices have frequently been used for patients waiting for transplants, but the new bioprosthetic device will replace the real heart. It will help thousands of people who are die each year while waiting for a donor, including many in Britain. Surgeon Alain Carpentier said: ‘It’s about giving patients a normal social life with the least dependence on medication as possible. ‘We’ve already seen these types of device of this type but they had a relatively low autonomy. This heart will allow for more movement and less clotting. The study that is starting is being very closely watched in the medical field.’

Developed by a team of engineers from Airbus parent company EADS, the artificial heart weighs 2 lb - almost three times as much as an average healthy human heart. 

It is expected to cost around £150,000 if it is made widely available. The device mimics heart muscle contractions and contains sensors that adapt the blood flow to the patient’s moves. The artificial heart is powered by external, wearable lithium-ion batteries. Inside the heart, surfaces that come into contact with human blood are made partly from bovine tissue instead of synthetic materials such as plastic that can cause blood clots. Heart failure affects more men than women, and the size of the artificial heart means it can fit in 86 percent of men but only around 20 percent of women. But Carmat says it can manufacture a smaller version to fit the smaller bodies of women as well as patients in India and China.