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Biotech Science

Girl's Heart Regenerates With Artificial Assist 184

Socguy writes with news about a 15-year-old girl who has become the first Canadian to have an artificial heart removed after her own heart healed itself. "Doctors at the Stollery Children's hospital implanted the Berlin Heart, a portable mechanical device that keeps blood pumping in an ailing heart, so she could survive until a transplant became available. But over the next few months, Melissa's overall condition improved dramatically, and her heart muscle regained much of its strength. After 146 days on the Berlin Heart, Melissa underwent surgery to have the device removed."
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Girl's Heart Regenerates With Artificial Assist

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  • the broken heart jokes (I couldnt tink of one)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:56AM (#20394871)
    In other news, her old artificial heart is to be given to her closest friend [].
  • Sometimes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Corpuscavernosa ( 996139 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:02AM (#20394903)
    ... all that can be said is "that's really fucking cool." Seriously. Good for her. No immunosuppressants. Hopefully a full recovery.
    • Re:Sometimes... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stox ( 131684 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:26AM (#20395029) Homepage
      I'll second that. In addition, without a transplant, she stands a decent chance of living a long full life. Transplant patients don't last that long, on average.
      • Re:Sometimes... (Score:5, Informative)

        by mgv ( 198488 ) * <.gro.namtlev. .ta. .tod2hsals.10.mapsoN.> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:35AM (#20396145) Homepage Journal

        I'll second that. In addition, without a transplant, she stands a decent chance of living a long full life. Transplant patients don't last that long, on average.

        I think that you are being a bit harsh there.

        Survival figures vary - overall in the USA the five-year survival [] rate is 71.2 percent for males and 66.9 percent for females. Its better than that in some units. This person's survival after a transplant would be alot higher than this as young people do better on average than older recipiants.

        Over 2/3 alive at 5 years, and actually pretty similar at 10 years - bearing in mind that most of bad outcomes are in the first year, and that this is all causes of death, including deaths that were unrelated to the transplant.

        The main bad thing about heart transplants is not getting enough hearts.

        Having said this, you will see a significant number of people who do not require transplantation due to spontaneous recovery of function.

        They still require two major operations - the VAD insertion and the VAD removal - so its not exactly a walk in the park.

        And the VAD's such as this can have quite significant complications. The are good but not necessarily the only solution.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          I'll second that. In addition, without a transplant, she stands a decent chance of living a long full life. Transplant patients don't last that long, on average.

          Over 2/3 alive at 5 years, and actually pretty similar at 10 years - bearing in mind that most of bad outcomes are in the first year, and that this is all causes of death, including deaths that were unrelated to the transplant.

          I think you're missing the point here. A 15 year old living 10 more years would mean she dies at 25. Not what I would call a "long full life".

          I have to agree with the grandparent, this looks very promising. I bet this clinical trial just got extended to a lot of other conditions. If they can generalize this to help hearts come back from a variety of heart problems at different ages we're talking about Nobel prize quality research.

          • I have to agree with the grandparent, this looks very promising. I bet this clinical trial just got extended to a lot of other conditions. If they can generalize this to help hearts come back from a variety of heart problems at different ages we're talking about Nobel prize quality research.

            Actually, this sort of thing has happened multiple times, especially in younger patients, and has happened even when they got transplants.

            The theory I heard is that by disconnecting the heart, but not removing it or the
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by steelfood ( 895457 )
          What about 50 years? 70? The girl's 15. I'd expect her life expectancy to be around 85 if she had no need of a transplant. If she makes it to the 10 year mark, she'll be 25, and likely at her prime. What's the mortality rate for 20 years? I don't imagine it to be very high, even for children.

          Granted, given her situation, she might have been dead in a year without a transplant, and 10 or 15 years is better than one. But transplants shouldn't be the final answer. Transplants should be more like asprin: a stop
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by sjames ( 1099 )

            Furthermore, with a transplant, she would be required to take anti-rejection medication for life and would suffer many more illnesses as a result.

            Compared to death or a short bedridden life, a transplant is a great option. However, where feasible, a temporary VAD and recovery of the original heart is much better.

            There is a form of heart transplant where the new heart is connected in parallel with the original. The procedure is more complex but offers better survival should rejection occur. I'm not sure

  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:03AM (#20394913) Journal
    Did the invasive surgery trigger a healing response, or did she just need a boost until natural processes finished the job?
    • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:27AM (#20395033) Homepage
      Her heart just needed a rest until it heals. There were a few cases here in the UK as well and implanting a parallel pump to assist is now considered a standard procedure in many cases where the transplant was the only option. Especially in kids and especially in cases where the heart has been damaged by inflammation. It is a safe bet really - if it heals good, if it does not the patient has a much better chance to survive until a suitable transplant is found. It is a pity that most pumps can take load only off some portions of the heart and not all of it (too much blood in the coffee subsystem to remember which).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Spokehedz ( 599285 )
        There was a study where they replaced someone's heart with a pump--not one that simulated a heartbeat, but just a constant flow. And the paitent lived for years afterwards... with no pulse.

        However, the mental issues with 'not having a pulse' were almost insurmountable. You are alive, yet you have no pulse. Also, you are used to a constant movement inside your chest--that was also hard to get adjusted too, if they did at all.

        However, just as in this story the patient's heart just re-started itself. Happy end
        • by rbanffy ( 584143 )
          I would find it extremely cool to be sort of an undead person.

          "Look: No pulse"

          It's too bad I would be too ill to go to any interesting party...
      • Her heart just needed a rest until it heals.

        Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought human heart cells couldn't reproduce?

        • by arivanov ( 12034 )
          Even if it does not, putting load on an a muscle that is suffering from severe inflammation will most likely damage it beyond repair. If you take the load off and let the inflammation subside the muscle has a fair chance of recovery in at least some cases. AFAIK, so far the pump bypass has shown to work in cases like this.
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @03:08AM (#20395273) Homepage
      All I wonder is; now that her own heart is doing all the work again, will it be able to cope or is it going to relapse and start failing again in time?
      • well.. consider that your heart has to keep beating your whole life. Hers has had a nice little holiday, hopefully her heart will be able to cope after that. No, IANADoctor
        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )
          What I basically meant is; her heart got to a state where it needed to be replaced over roughly the first 14 years of her life (do we include life inside the mother's womb?). Why wouldn't it deteriorate to that state again after another 14 years?
          • Maybe she had a defect from birth that wasn't able to be repaired because the heart was in use, and now that it's had a chance to repair itself, she will be okay
          • More likely, her heart was temporarily (and rapidly) damaged by some sort of illness that attacked her heart. (Weird virus, bacteria, maybe a toxin.) As long as THAT doesn't happen again she'll be fine.
            • Re:Acute illness (Score:5, Informative)

              by eam ( 192101 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @07:30AM (#20396337)
              Congratulations. You managed to guess the truth. It might have been easier to just read the article, but you managed to figure out what was going on anyway.

              The second sentence in the article:

              "Melissa Mills arrived at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital last year after a sudden illness made her critically ill and a candidate for a heart transplant."

              It wouldn't be slashdot if people didn't ask questions that were answered by the article ;-)
              • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )
                Actually, I read the article and then forgot half the contents. Insufficient caffeine. :)
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
            From what I can Google, the heart starts beating about 3-4 weeks after conception. So we should count most of the pregnancy as time that her heart was beating.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MMC Monster ( 602931 )
      It's not that the heart "healed". What happens after a serious injury to the heart (whether a heart attack, viral infection, or anything else), is that the heart becomes weaker and tries to adapt. Things that physicians do to help the heart adapt in the right way (as opposed to the wrong way) include assist devices that will pump the blood forward. These include artificial hearts, left ventricular and biventricular assist devices, and intra-aortic balloon pumps. Other things that help people along are m
      • I know a number of people whos hearts are pumping out less than 10 percent of the blood that enters it (normal is to pump out ~60 percent).
        Forgive my ignorance, but how would that work exactly? If a heart pumps out less blood than it receives, wouldn't the blood build up in the heart until it exploded or held all the blood in the body?
        • Let's answer this by example: At the end on the heart contracting, there is 80 cc of blood in it. During relaxation another 20 cc enters the chamber. During the next contraction, 20 cc leaves the chamber. The ejection fraction is then (20/(80+20))*100=20 percent. The amount of blood that leaves the ventricle is always the same as the amount that enters it*, but is never 100% of the blood in the chamber.

          *This is in the long term. On a beat-to-beat basis it may vary a little.
  • by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:03AM (#20394915) Journal
    A 13 year old boy recovered [] without a transplant with the help of one of these things as well.
  • Maybe (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:06AM (#20394933) Homepage
    Maybe her heart didn't regenerate. Maybe she just has two, because she's a klingon.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:31AM (#20395055)
    Our God is indeed a God of Mircales and Wonders. The hand of the great Healer is clearly at work for this sweet girl.

    Thank you, Jesus! Praise be to your precious name.
  • don't remember where, but i recently read that it's well known that the human heart is capable of some serious self healing, so i'm not that surprised by this.
    did it heal beyond what they thought was possible/normal? or is it only under certain conditions that weren't met this time?
    • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @03:05AM (#20395255)
      or is it only under certain conditions that weren't met this time?

      presumablely her heart just needed a reduction in workload to allow it to heal, so they used this neat gadget to temporarily assist it until it was fully functional again.
    • by myc ( 105406 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @04:18AM (#20395555)
      actually, the human heart has very poor healing capacity. This is why ischemic heart disease eventually kills you; your damaged heart heals by scarring, which leads to decreased cardiac output and eventually apoptotic or necrotic cell death of cardiomyocytes.

      IANAHRBMWI (I am not a heart researcher but my wife is)
      • by Cougem ( 734635 )
        Yeh, it's true. The real problem often with heart damage isn't so much the inability to pump that comes with scar tissue so much as the electrical defects. Yes, one can get a side of the heart becoming insufficient, which can result in congestive heart failure (which will cause a buildup of fluid (oedema) in the pulmonary (lung) or systemic circulation), but what very often happens after heart attacks are fibrilations, arrhythmias etc. The problem is the heart is perfectly structured so that the electrical
      • hmm, i think it was an article on this: []
        there are probably circumstances where the heart heals correctly, or forms scar tissue :)
      • ...and muscles only heal and rebuild themselves when given time to rest.

        A lot of people go to the gym and over-do it with the weights and do not rest enough. Generally you get better results if you only exercise any given muscle group no more than every other day, with rest days in-between. For example, work arms one day, then legs the next, etc. Plus take weekends off entirely. Of course, this depends on what you want to achieve--if you want to look like a scarecrow/extreme-marathon-runner then go ahea
  • House M.D. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Antarius ( 542615 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @02:54AM (#20395203)
    Gregory House, eat your heart out! Er, wait...
  • good thing the removal surgery went well. It sure would have sucked if she died after all that!
  • by RoboJ1M ( 992925 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @03:59AM (#20395501)

    20th December 2006 and I'm watching my girlfriend Rachel die from sudden congestive heart failure.

    I remember thinking, "Why isn't there a machine to pump the blood so her heart can rest?"

    I hope this thing gets everywhere to save other people and their partners.


    • by TheThiefMaster ( 992038 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:09AM (#20396003)
      My god some of these anonymous guys are mean.

      I hope all of you never have to watch someone you know die, I really do.
    • by Lemming Mark ( 849014 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @08:47AM (#20396895) Homepage
      It's awful that you had to go through that experience. I can't even imagine how you must have felt, but you have my deepest sympathies. Please take no notice of the anonymous replies to your comment - they're really not even worth reading. Some idiots actually think they're being clever by displaying their ignorance.

      I'm no doctor, but I guess this technology would not be suitable for use in all cases, and that some patients still require more conventional treatment by other means - but hopefully that will keep advancing too. It's amazing to see progress like this being made in medicine and I too hope that it can help many more people.

      I extend my sincere condolences for your loss and my best wishes for you.

      Mark Williamson
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        If you go to the Berlin Heart website, they explicitly tell you that none of their products are FDA approved.

        Damned paper-pushing fuck-tards.

        I really feel bad for you, OP. And that's like the understatement of the year.

        Needless to say, the lesson here to any americans should be, If you're having a serious heart condition, GO TO CANADA.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hf256 ( 627209 )
      It's interesting how much we expect medical caregivers to be aware of and which they are actually not. While you have my deepest sympathies for your loss, I couldn't help but recall 2 things that I ran across:

      - A study that showed that doctors tended to dismiss patient complaints about drug side effects
      - An article by a WSJ journalist covering medical issues where the first oncologist dismissed any suggestions from her.

      I guess in some cases it comes to down to the skill level of your medical staff and while
    • My most sincere condolences to you and your families. I can't imagine how that must have torn you up. May you find peace and happiness in your future. --Mike
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      March 20th, 2005, and my girlfriend also died because her heart suddenly decided not to work anymore. She was 25.

      Coincidentally enough, her name was also Rachel.

      The news in the article are truly awesome. There may not be enough hearts for everyone, but at least with this machine they'll all get a better shot at pulling through, instead of just staying there waiting helplessly.
  • Why remove? It's never a bad thing to have a spare heart or two, for HA purposes. Just imagine if the main one fails!.

  •   Don't you know, the heart has adult stems in it. Hell, most of the body has them. Body can regenerate itself. No surprise to me
  • Claire Bennett?
  • And its Kobe from center court, "Girl's Heart Regenerates" With Artificial Assist ~Sticky /Boooo!
  • hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by slserpent ( 898476 )
    i thought Canada was supposed to have bad healthcare. hmm...
  • first Canadian to have an artificial heart removed after her own heart healed itself.
    Not that this isn't great and interesting news, but the Berlin Heart [] is a "ventricular assist device", and not actually a heart replacement. Just reading the quote above, I was actually wondering if they removed the original heart and healed it in a test tube or something like that.
  • There was a story a couple of years ago about a clinical trial at Cedars Sinai of an artificial liver developed by Dr. Achilles A. Demetriou. The device uses a bioreactor containing cells from pig livers The people they tried this on were all in end-stage liver failure and about to die. The idea was to tide them over until a transplant became available.

    A couple of them died from the effects of the surgery. Some others lasted long enough to finally get a transplant. But in several others their own livers
  • Sure she's receiving top-quality cutting-edge health care...but she had to wait six months to get the artificial heart!
    • she may very well have had to wait until it was very necessary for the artificial heart ... but since it was in Canada, not the USA, at least it didn't cost her family their home and life savings.
  • have been implanted since the 1970s to help the native heart recover. What is amazing is that this works even with 40 year old people, not just children.
  • by CptPicard ( 680154 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @08:23AM (#20409865)
    How the fuck can a 15-year old girl's wealth generation ability be enough for some fancy artificial heart?? Her parents better have paid for it, or otherwise it distorted the market and reduced my ability to make more profits.

    There was an excellent Outer Limits episode (1x05) of exactly this kind of an event, but of course Socialist propaganda was injected into it to make the ending morally repugnant.
    • Beleive it or not most people are not rich extreme capitalists and in a democratic society the majority have the power if they care enough about an issue.

      Most countries rich enough to afford it have socialised medicine (In the USA they make you go bankrupt and let your condition diteriorate horriblly first but they do provide eventually) and people like to know that if something terrible happens to them they will be cared for even if they don't at the time have the mony to pay for it.

      P.S. If you really beli

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27