Heart model with ‘mock circulatory loop’ will help future heart failure patients

Increasing numbers of patients are presenting to Irish hospitals with heart failure, due to health factors such as obesity and sedentary lifestyle

A new lab-based model of the heart and circulatory system is set to help heart failure patient across the country.

Scientists from the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have developed a model called a ‘mock circulatory loop’ which mimics both a healthy heart and a heart in failure with preserved ejection fraction.

In recent years, the number of patients presenting with heart failure with normal or preserved ejection fraction measurement has risen, most likely due to the increase in the prevalence of common risk factors, including old-age, high blood pressure and obesity.

According to the Irish Heart Foundation, approximately 20,000 people are hospitalised with heart failure in Ireland each year.

The model enables potential heart failure treatment devices to be examined in terms of their effect on both chambers in the left side of the heart.

It also can test devices to examine the left atrium, the top chamber responsible for receiving oxygen-rich blood from the lungs, as well as the left ventricle, the lower chamber responsible for pumping the oxygen-rich blood around the body.

Render of the silicone heart chamber inside a rigid plastic container which was used by researchers at RCSI to simulate contractions of the heart: Image: RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences

Senior author on the study, Dr Aamir Hameed, Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine and a Principal Investigator with the Tissue Engineering Research Group at RCSI said that half of the patients presenting with heart failure have the condition with preserved ejection fraction and the numbers are increasing in the developed world due to the increase in the prevalence of risk factors.

“The condition can be difficult to treat with medicines and is causing a considerable burden to health services throughout the world,” he said.

“The development of this lab-based model is a milestone in heart failure research as it enables devices to be tested that have the potential to treat a condition that affects millions of people around the world, improving their quality of life and reducing the burden on health services.”

The first author on the study, Dr Andrew Malone, Postdoctoral Researcher at RCSI added that until now, no lab model had been developed that could both mimic the cardiac cycle and features two independently controlled cardiac chambers to fully simulate the blood flow of the left atrium and the left ventricle during the resting phase of the cardiac cycle.

“This is a key step forward in the development of a robust means of testing heart failure device treatments” he said.

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