Carmat's Groundbreaking Half Cow, Half Machine Artificial Heart Implanted In First Human

An artificial heart that can give patients up to five years of extra life has been successfully implanted for the first time.

France's Carmat said on Friday it had carried out its first implant of an artificial heart that can beat for up to five years, adding that the operation had gone smoothly

The procedure was performed on December 18th at France's Georges Pompidou European Hospital, and the patient is said to be doing well.

A picture taken on December 21, 2013 at Georges Pompidou European hospital in Paris, shows an artificial heart produced by Biomedical firm Carmat

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Carmat says he is currently awake in the intensive care unit and is speaking with family members.

According to the company, the operation went "smoothly" and the heart is providing blood flow as expected. It marks the first successful human implant for Carmat, with other trials slated for the future.

French leading heart transplant specialist Alain Carpentier (2ndR), professor Jean-Noel Fabiani (L), head of the department of cardiovascular surgery and transplantation of organs at Georges Pompidou European hospital in Paris and professor Christian Latremouille (R), member of the service, arrive with French Social Affairs and Health Minister Marisol Touraine (3rdR) for a press conference in Paris on December 21, 2013, after the team made the first human trial of an artificial heart on December 18

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"We are delighted with this first implant, although it is premature to draw conclusions given that a single implant has been performed and that we are in the early postoperative phase", said Carmat's CEO, Marcello Conviti.

Although heart-assistance devices have been used for decades as a temporary solution for patients awaiting transplants, Carmat's bioprosthetic heart is designed to replace the real heart over the long run

Carmat's bioprosthetic product mimicks nature's work using biological materials and sensors. It is aimed at helping the thousands of patients who die each year while awaiting a donor, and reducing the side-effects associated with transplants.

French heart transplant specialist Alain Carpentier presents a prototype of the world's first fully implantable artificial heart.

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"It's about giving patients a normal social life with the least dependence on medication as possible," Alain Carpentier, surgeon and Carmat co-founder, told France 2 television.

Carmat estimates around 100,000 patients in the United States and Europe could benefit from its artificial heart, a market worth more than $22 billion

"We already had devices of this type but they had a relatively low autonomy. This heart will allow for more movement and less clotting. The study that is starting is being very closely watched in the medical field," Patrick Nataf, head of heart surgery at Paris Bichat hospital, told BFM TV.

The fluid is contained in an external bag that beats at the same rate that a native heart would

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Carmat's artificial heart can beat for up to five years and is designed for patients suffering from end-stage heart failure

Carmat has other patients lined up for early human trials; according to Reuters, the procedures will be deemed successful for all patients that survive with the implant for over a month.

Carmat’s artificial heart is as intricate as a real one.

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Carmat's innovative artificial heart — which includes sections of cow tissue — initially won approval in Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Poland, and Belgium earlier this year.

Still, the Carmat heart has its drawbacks

At 2lbs, it weighs almost three times as much as the average human heart, and each one costs more than $195,000.

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France's Health Minister was quick to tout the operation as a sign of the country's edge in the field of healthcare

"This news brings great pride to France," Marisol Touraine told BFM TV. "It shows we are pioneers in healthcare, that we can invent, that we can carry an innovation that will also bring great hope to plenty of people."

French Social Affairs and Health Minister Marisol Touraine speaks during a press conference at Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris, on December 21, 2013, after the first human trial of an artificial heart, made on December 18.

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Among Carmat's competitors for artificial heart implants are privately-held SynCardia Systems and Abiomed, both of the United States

"We're very happy for them and we wish them the best in their pursuit," said a spokesman for SynCardia, whose artificial heart is the only one approved both in the United States and the European Union and has been implanted over 1,200 times.

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The longest a patient has lived with SynCardia's heart is just under four years.

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