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Jan Bauer / AP

Hearts are not the easiest organ to come by when a patient is in need of a transplant, so various companies are now working on ways to create artificial "robot" hearts, per The Guardian's Thomas Morris, who did a deep-dive on the subject.

So far, there are two types of artificial hearts:

  1. One that hasn't been tested on humans, but has "shown promising results" in animals, per Morris. Compared to pneumatic pumps, this version is significantly smaller, more efficient and more durable. It uses magnets to suspend the rotors that drive the blood.
  2. Another artificial heart was created by French surgeon Alain Carpentier and it was recently tested in humans. He worked with engineers "to design a pulsatile, hydraulically powered device whose unique feature is the use of bioprosthetic materials – both organic and synthetic matter." What makes it unique: The design actually mimics the shape of the heart — "the internal surfaces are lined with preserved bovine pericardial tissue, a biological surface far kinder to the red blood cells than the polymers previously used."

What's next: Patients first received Carpentier's artificial heart in 2013 and now a larger clinical trial is currently undergoing.

The skepticism: The price tag. These artificial devices cost around $112,000, so cardiologists recognize that it'd be nearly impossible to provide everyone who needed one with an artificial heart.

Cardiologists have long tried to figure out an innovative alternative to open-heart surgery when a full heart transplant isn't necessary, and are increasingly using robotic heart parts, Morris details in his piece.

For example, a robot-like transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is used to help replace diseased or damaged aortic valves. The first person to receive a new aortic valve without open-heart surgery was in 2002.

One big thing: Some pediatric cardiologists have started using TAVI procedures to operate on unborn children with heart malformations, which affect 5% of all babies and are the most common cause of birth defects. TAVI is especially helpful in cases of unborn babies who are diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a condition that prevents the left side of the heart from properly developing.

How it's different: Inserting a TAVI requires a non-invasive procedure to address surgeries that would otherwise require open-heart surgery. TAVI procedures don't take place in a standard operating room, and instead the patient is treated in a catheterization laboratory. And the timing is a huge factor, too: Most open-heart surgeries take between four to six hours — implanting a TAVI has taken cardiologists less than one hour.

What's next: TAVI is still relatively in its infancy, but experts believe in addition to replacing diseased valves, this procedure could also repair them by imitating surgeons' techniques. Furthermore, many experts believe surgery will becoming rare, as this will eventually become the default medical option for valvular, aortic diseases.

Go deeper

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Kaine, Collins pitch Senate colleagues on censuring Trump

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks with Sen. Susan Collins. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine and Susan Collins are privately pitching their colleagues on a bipartisan resolution censuring former President Trump, three sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction in his second impeachment.