Penn State Research Foundation has inked a licensing deal with a medical device company to provide game-changing wireless energy technology for left ventricular assist devices. The technology would be utilized for patients with congestive heart failure and could eliminate wound care issues, making it more feasible to expand the number of patients for the implants to include relatively healthier patients.
The system helps the heart pump oxygen-rich blood through the body. The current generation of devices have a tube that connects the device through the skin to an external battery pack. It represents a marked improvement in the quality of life for recipients who are limited in their activities because of the infection risk posed by the tube. Although the pump can be an effective measure to bide time until a heart transplant can be done, the wireless technology could make it feasible as a permanent implant, particularly for patients who don’t meet the criteria for a transplant, and could increase life spans.
Dr. William J. Weiss, Howard E Morgan professor of surgery and bioengineering at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, is heading up a team that is working with Minnetronix in Minnesota. “Everybody sees this as part of the future,” Weiss said.
Penn State has worked on ventricular assistance device blood pumps for the heart since 1980 with funding from the National Institutes of Health. The circulatory pumps have evolved from air pumps that required patients to remain in healthcare facilities to smaller devices.
It is one of two groups in the world that has tested wireless technology for an implanted blood pump in humans. Penn State worked with Arrow International (later acquired by Teleflex) to develop the Arrow LionHeart left ventricular assist device for heart failure patients who weren’t candidates for a heart transplant in the 1990s, which culminated in a clinical trial in 2001. Abiomed also used wireless energy transfer in its AbioCor I total artificial heart clinical trial.
Among the other companies competing in this area are Thoratec and HeartWare (NASDAQ:HTWR), which has a device in clinical trials in collaboration with Dualis.
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