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France's Carmat implants first artificial heart in human

Source: Reuters - Fri, 20 Dec 2013 06:49 PM
Author: Reuters
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* Operation performed on Wednesday went smoothly - Carmat

* Male patient is awake and talking, in intensive care

* Carmat's heart aims to mimic real heart for up to 5 years (Adds detail, background)

By Natalie Huet

PARIS, Dec 20 (Reuters) - France's Carmat said on Friday it had carried out its first implant of an artificial heart that can beat for up to five years, adding that the operation had gone smoothly.

The implant operation was performed on Wednesday at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris, Carmat said in a statement. It said that the patient was awake and talking and that he was being monitored in the intensive care unit.

"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", CEO Marcello Conviti said.

Heart-assistance devices have been used for decades as a temporary solution for patients awaiting transplants, but Carmat's bioprosthetic product is designed to replace the heart for up to five years, or until a heart transplant can be carried out. The device mimics nature's work using biological materials and sensors.

It is aimed at helping the thousands of patients who die each year while waiting for a donor.

Carmat estimates around 100,000 patients in the United States and Europe could benefit from its artificial heart, a market worth more than 16 billion euros ($22 billion).

In September, Carmat got the green light from French authorities to test the first human implants of the device on four patients in three hospitals. The Paris patient is the first of these.

The patients selected for the tests suffer from terminal heart failure and have only a few days or weeks to live, and the success of the device will be judged on whether they survive for at least a month wearing it.

The Carmat device, developed by a team of engineers from Airbus parent company EADS, weighs about 900g - nearly three times more than an average healthy human heart - and is expected to cost 140,000 to 180,000 euros in Europe.

It mimics heart muscle contractions and contains sensors that adapt the blood flow to the patient's moves.

It 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.

Conviti told Reuters last month Carmat hoped to finish human trials of the heart by the end of next year and to obtain approval to market them in the EU by early 2015. ($1 = 0.7315 euros) (Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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