Most Influential Projects 2021

43 Aeson

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For bridging the gap between heart failure and a transplant

For some of the 26 million people with heart failure, a transplant is the best option—which can mean waiting years for a donor. French medical device maker Carmat has been working on a solution since its founding in 2008, finally unveiling Aeson, an artificial heart that can replace the whole organ for up to six months.

Patients have traditionally had limited options. SynCardia was the first artificial heart to be approved in Europe and the only one that has U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for sale in the United States. By offering another option, Carmat has the potential to bridge a massive gap: Among the 1.3 million people with advanced-stage heart disease, only 5,500 receive a transplant each year.

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Collaborating with technological experts from Airbus Group, Carmat developed the unit’s lining from preserved bovine pericardium tissue, which has been used for heart valve replacement and can help reduce the risk of blood clots or strokes in implant patients. The team also designed the unit to be self-adjusting. And because the team incorporated pressure sensors into the device, Aeson can automatically regulate blood flow, reducing the need for patients to meet with doctors for post-implant adjustments.

Carmat conducted its first test implant in 2013 and has since iterated improvements on Aeson and the battery pack that powers it to provide patients what the company calls "a near-normal life." The European Union approved the device in December 2020, and in July, surgeons completed the first implants in patients in Italy, Germany and the United States. As the company continues to ramp up production and build up inventories to scale the device across Europe and the United States, Carmat CEO Stéphane Piat said the project’s initial results "makes us very confident that our Aeson artificial heart is a gamechanger."