$5 million NIH contract to fund development of pediatric heart assist device

HERSHEY, PA Penn State researchers recently were awarded a $5 million contract from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to develop a pediatric heart assist device.

"This contract will allow us to develop two blood pumps small enough to provide heart support for infants, children and teens," said William J. Weiss, Ph.D., principle investigator for the project and associate professor of surgery and bioengineering, Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. "Our multidisciplinary team combines expertise from faculty in several Penn State colleges to develop an effective, safe, pediatric heart assist system. Our goal is to make the product available for clinical use in about five years."

Few heart assist pumps have been developed or adapted specifically for use in children. Most currently-available heart assist devices were designed for adults and are too large for pediatric patients. Currently, short-term heart or heart/lung support is available for children via extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, and the Bio-Pump, but both provide support for only a few days to, at most, a few weeks. Other devices either are not available in the United States, or are adaptations of adult technology, which are not useful for very small children and infants.

Development of a child-size heart assist device started in 1986 at Penn State College of Medicine under the direction of William S. Pierce, M.D., a pioneer in the development of mechanical heart assist devices.

Although the research team has continued to work on certain aspects of the pump, a lack of industry and federal funding slowed development of the device.

"Since the late 1980s, there have been numerous successes with adult heart assist devices such as the Arrow LionHeartTM," Weiss said. "That has sparked renewed interest in funding research and development of a pediatric versio

Contact: Valerie Gliem
Penn State

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