Saturday, June 10

The transplants of tomorrow will be done with mechanical or animal hearts. And Spain bets on the first

In recent months, xenotransplantation has not stopped giving us good news. Pig organs (genetically modified to improve their compatibility with humans) have given the first kidney and heart transplants.

This is sensational news, although also insufficient. Not only because this type of transplant is full of technical, medical and ethical problems in a society that is increasingly strict with animal experimentation; but because only in Spain every year are incorporated more than 5,000 people to the transplant list Y one in ten will die waiting for an organ that will not arrive. We need accessible and available solutions on an industrial scale. Although they are transitory.

Beyond xenotransplantation So it won’t surprise anyone other than the only big technology trying to solve the problem of the lack of available organs. In Spain, specifically, there is a small research group that is obsessed with develop an artificial heart that serves not only as a temporary solution while patients wait for a transplant, but that it could become a definitive treatment for the most severe heart diseases.

From Germany to Cordoba The GA09 Cardiovascular Pathology, which is the name of the research group, is coordinated by the IMIBIC bioengineer Juan José Ferrés and Ignacio Muñoz, head of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Reina Sofía hospital, is working to recover an artificial heart model that began to be developed in Germany ( with their collaboration), but that the pandemic left parked. For months, the group has been leading clinical development and five interventions have already been carried out with this prototype in animal models with favorable results.


A model similar to the one developed in Córdoba | Antonio Figueredo and collaborators

What does it consist of? As a temporary solution, it has already been tested several in humans; the challenge is to get a permanent device. Unlike other models, this one does not involve removing the damaged heart and implanting a permanent artificial heart in its place. It is about of a “circulatory assist device” that is placed between the left ventricle and the aorta to help improve heart function. For now, his estimates give the device a useful life of about 10 years. A duration equivalent to current heart transplants.

The moment of collaboration As often happens, the key for the coming years will be a combination of both approaches and, therefore, the hidden battle between the different research groups and companies to attract funding and media attention may end up being a problem in the medium term. Above all, now that it seems more and more evident that the contemporary science funding system is about to change. And a lot

Imagen | Olga Kononenko