2018 clinical trials goal for next generation pump to treat chronic heart failure

The first next generation blood pump for the treatment of chronic heart failure in the UK is being developed by Swansea University based Calon Cardio-Technology Ltd. Clinical trials are due to begin in late 2018, with the aim of a full rollout of the pump two years later.

View a BBC Wales Online feature on this ground-breaking research here.

Calon Cardio, which is located within the Medical School’s Institute of Life Science 2, is developing the affordable, implantable micro blood pumps – commonly known as ventricular assist devices, or VADs –for the treatment of chronic heart failure, which is a significant and rapidly growing global health problem. 

The pump being developed by Calon Cardio is called a MiniVAD (pictured below).

Calon Cardio image 1Chronic heart failure is a serious, often terminal, medical condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to meet the demands of the body.

Calon Cardio says it currently affects around 20 million people in the developed world and the number of sufferers is rapidly growing.

Traditionally medical management and cardiac therapies have been used to prolong patients’ survival and improve their quality of life.

However, these therapies are only partially successful and many patients progress to advanced heart failure which carries a terminal prognosis and a very poor quality of life.

Until recently only heart transplants offered a cure for advanced heart failure, but the very limited supply of donor hearts means that transplants are available only for a very lucky few.

Early generation blood pumps are extremely expensive and their large size requires highly invasive surgery. 

Over time the adverse effects of these pumps on blood have become apparent with evidence of haemolysis, the rupture or destruction of red blood cells; a significant incidence of thrombus formation, (formation of a blood clot in a blood vessel), and adverse medical conditions resulting from the therapy.

Calon Cardio image 2Calon Cardio’s MiniVAD pump is implanted into the failing heart. It is driven by an embedded electric motor and powered by a battery pack worn by the user. The main objective of the pump, which should last about 10 years, is to better manage the blood to minimise these adverse effects.

Stuart McConchie, Calon Cardio’s chief executive officer and a leading authority in the field of VADs development and related cardiovascular interventional procedures, said it was the most-advanced pump of its kind.

"This is for a very sick group of people and there are millions of them in the world, and hundreds of thousands in the United Kingdom," said Mr McConchie.

"It is the first British pump to be built for this purpose: to treat blood which is flowing through the pump extremely gently and not to do any damage to the blood.

"There are other pumps that have been built that do cause some damage to the blood and, as a result, patients have adverse events that diminish the impact of the implantation and the treatment.

"Reliability of these pumps has been established for several years but blood handling is a problem. If they break up red blood cells or white blood cells or damage proteins then there is a cost of that."

He added: "If we can demonstrate that we have reduced the adverse events, you have something that's much more forgettable that's put inside the body.

"Patients don't have to go back into hospital for correction of any adverse events, so the absolute cost benefit becomes substantial.

"That means the NHS, for example, or a healthcare provider in other countries like the United States, don't have as much cost in treating the patient who has a ventricle assist device and the benefit to society comes with that."

For more information on Calon Cardio, visit the website here.