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Smaller Devices May Make Life Easier for Patients (July 4, 2006)

The world's smallest ventricular assist device (Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Tokyo Institute of Technology)
A string of recent technological developments in Japan are holding out hope for patients awaiting heart transplants, particularly children. The goal of the researchers involved in these developments is to improve ventricular assist devices (VADs) by making them smaller and more functional, so that they can be implanted into young children and others with serious heart problems. VADs help the heart to pump blood around the body. For patients awaiting transplants, they play a critical role, helping them to survive until transplant surgery can be performed.

User Friendly
VADs come in two basic designs - with the pump outside the patient's body or implanted inside the body. Current models are large, which restricts their range of use. Patients must be confined to their beds while using them, and the VADs' large size prevents them from being used on children and others with small bodies.

The VAD developed by Sun Medical (Sun Medical Technology Research Corp.)

But all that may change in the years ahead, thanks to the development of a prototype of the world's smallest general-use VAD. The breakthrough is the result of joint research between Tokyo Medical and Dental University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The device's pump, a critical component, is circular in shape and small enough to fit into the palm of an adult's hand. It measures a mere 6.5 centimeters in diameter and is just 3.25 cm thick. Due to its small size, researchers believe there is a high likelihood that the new VAD can be used in children as young as 5 years of age for short periods of time. Clinical testing on the new generation of VAD is planned for around 2009.

The device is implanted into the body of a patient whose heart is extremely weak from illness. It is then connected to their heart and sends blood around the body through the turning of the pump's impellers. The researchers working on the project hope one day to develop a device that can operate even when the user goes outdoors.

A model of how the VAD works (Sun Medical Technology Research Corp.)

Corporate Efforts
Another recently developed VAD is the result of joint research in Japan by Sun Medical Technology Research Corp. and several universities.This device is already in use in one patient. The patient had it implanted in an operation in May 2005 and was released from the hospital the following February, after recovering to the point of being able to stand up and move around. The developers hope to have this VAD in widespread use in a few years' time.

Terumo Corp., Japan, a major medical equipment maker, has completed clinical trials of its own VAD, expected to be sold in Europe by the end of fiscal 2006 (April 2006 to March 2007).

Such promising developments are good news for transplant patients, many of whom spend prolonged periods waiting for their operations. This makes the VADs' role of supporting hearts all the more critical.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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(September 18, 2000)
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