Time is of the essence because the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) claims that nearly 8500 patients have died waiting for heart transplants since 1988 in the United States. The speed, virtual simulation, and precision of the computer simulations have given the Cardianove team of engineers and cardiac transplant surgeons who developed the pump, the confidence that it will not only work, but also the assurances that it can be manufactured to the necessary tolerances.
The pump will be machined out of titanium with blades which are only 100 microns thick (a human hair is about 50 microns), which turns at 10.000-12.000 rotations per minute (RPM). It is powered by a small external battery which sends a tiny electrical current directly through the skin without the need for wires. Cardianove is aiming to have the revolutionary heart pump ready and approved for human application within four years. Its goal is to develop a more permanent implant with a functional life of ten years or longer.
The project has been conceived at the Montréal Heart Institute, a highly specialised cardiology research university hospital, where doctors required a small pump to assist patients with failing hearts. The Institute contacted the Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, a leading Canadian engineering university, and its professor of general mechanics and CATIA instructor, André Garon, to assist in the project. Dr. Garon, a co-founder of Cardianove Inc., formed a team of a dozen engineers and graduate students familiar with CATIA Solutions. Their objective was to design and model an auxiliary pump which can be inserted directly into the left ventricle of damaged hearts.
After only 36 months, two years less than the time typically needed for the development of similar devices, the Cardianove team unveiled its miniature heart pump. Once inserted into the heart, the pump can help prolong the life expectancy of patients with advanced congestive heart failure which is due to coronary artery disease or cardio-myopathy; or act as a temporary solution for people awaiting heart transplants, or for post-operative patients whose hearts need assistance until they recover and can function on their own.
"After we completed the computer model, we used CATIA's numerical control (NC) functions to quickly create a prototype, and used CFX fluid dynamic software to determine if we could cut the parts to spec and predict how they would behave in actual operation in the human body. CATIA allowed us to use the latest in 3D modelling to explore over 100 virtual prototypes, and to machine the top three candidates", explained Dr. Garon.
For the design and solid modelling of the pump, Cardianove engineers used CATIA Version 4 in conjunction with fluid dynamics software, all running on five IBM RS/6000 UNIX workstations. CATIA's NC commands were essential in the production of the design, that required a very high degree of precision to enable the laboratory to machine the small parts out of titanium. Carlo Ranfagni, IBM director of small and medium worldwide sales, IBM Product Lifecycle Management, stated: "Cardianove's application illustrates the versatility of CATIA, and its flexible capabilities for the rapid development of products of any type, for any industry, and in any size company."
Philippe Forestier, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Dassault Systèmes, added: "CATIA delivers accurate digital product representation, crucial to part and device architecture decisions as well as meeting stringent safety, quality, and regulation standards. We are extremely excited CATIA is contributing to the progress of the medical industry." The heart pump will be manufactured at the Centre Prototech of the Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal. In addition to concentrating on this heart pump, Cardianove, with backing from venture capitalists, plans on using its expertise in hydrodynamics to develop other pumps for medical care in areas, including extra-corporeal perfusion or slow continuous drug infusion.
Cardianove is an emerging technology company, founded in 1997 by a group of seven inventors in partnership with two leading teaching institutions, the Montréal Heart Institute and the Ecole Polytechnique. It is dedicated to the development of a unique miniature ventricular assist device to support the failing heart. This enclosed-impeller axial-flow pump is designed to be totally implanted inside the left ventricle; its integrated miniature DC electric motor is powered remotely and no direct connections through the skin are needed.
These features offer the patients greater autonomy and better quality of life. Using its pioneering technology, the company will develop other applications of this miniature pump system for human care. Dassault Systèmes is the developer of the CATIA software, IBM's Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) business unit and IBM Business Partners worldwide market, sell, and support it.