A startup is now making artificial hearts for terminally ill patients
  • French company Carmat said it would begin selling artificial hearts in the second quarter of 2021.
  • The heart is mainly targeted at patients suffering from terminal or “endstage” heart failure.
  • A man suffering from end-stage heart failure received an artificial heart implant, the startup said.
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A French company developing the world’s most advanced artificial heart announced it had provided an artificial heart for a patient suffering from severe end-stage heart failure last month.

“The patient who received the device suffered from severe end-stage biventricular heart failure and he was eligible to an urgent heart transplant,” said Professor Assad Haneya, a medical director at UKSH. “We are pleased to have successfully implanted the CARMAT TAH in our center last week.”

Carmat, founded in 2008, aims to provide patients suffering from advanced heart failure with a second lease of life.

The artificial heart can provide long-term support or serve as a “bridge to a heart transplant,” the company said in a press release

The artificial heart imitates the functions of the human heart and consists of an implanted prosthesis, external equipment including batteries, and a hospital care console to track the functioning of the heart. 

The prosthesis includes four biological valves to facilitate blood flow, two ventricles, two micropumps, and inbuilt sensors enabling the heart to adapt to the patient’s needs at any given time.

“A few days after the procedure, the device is providing all the necessary support and the patient is recovering well,” said Dr. Bernd Panholzer, director of the cardiovascular ICU. “Since the device has some key characteristics similar to a real heart, such as pulsatility, hemocompatibility, and self-regulation, we expect to meet the needs of many other patients placed on the waiting lists with this new type of therapy.”

“In 2021, our intention is to focus our efforts on Germany and France, which account for more than half of these patients,” said Stéphane Piat, Carmat’s CEO.

The company sees heart failure as a “global pandemic” affecting at least 26 million people, pointing out that survival is less than 50% after five years. Due to a shortage of donors, however, only around 5,500 transplants are carried out annually — meaning some wait months or years. 

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Carmat said heart failure was “increasing in prevalence.”
FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Carmat targets its product at those in greatest need — the 5% of patients who are suffering from “terminal” or “endstage” heart failure.

They said heart failure was “increasing in prevalence.” This will only have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which can affect the heart, sometimes causing “abnormalities.” One-third of coronavirus-related deaths in Italy were also patients who suffered from heart disease

In March 2020, Carmat announced a patient who had been fitted with their artificial heart had successfully been supported for two years, calling it a “very encouraging” development. 

Earlier that year, they were also part of an exhibition of French products at the French presidential residence, according to Paris Match. They also secured $15.7 million (€13 million) in funding from the French government to carry out clinical trials in the second quarter of 2021. 

In December, Carmat experienced its biggest rise in stock value in seven years after gaining approval to sell their artificial heart, Bloomberg reported. Their shares rose by 66% in 2020, and the company’s worth at the time was estimated at around $496 million (€407 million). 

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