The UF team is creating a device with a novel pumping technology that makes it smaller and smarter than currently available ventricular assist devices, which are too large to be implanted in many patients. The pump's small size means also it would be the first such device in the U.S. that could be used in children.

"Current heart pumps are really large and complicated, so we are aiming to build one that is smaller and allows more types of applications,” said mechanical and aerospace engineering student Ella Kinberg, the project's team leader.

"The one thing that this pump has that no other pump has is continuous inflow with pulsating outflow,” Klodell said. "It has a continuous pre-filling chamber, something that nobody else has come up with.”

With a continuous inflow, the UF pump is able to reduce the pressure on the blood while injecting it into the pump - an important modification because higher pumping pressure could cause damage to the red blood cells, he said.

The pulsating outflow allows for greater control over fluid volume passing through the pump. The pump is sensitive to changes in inflow pressure as well, such as during times of increased activity, so that if the pressure increases, it starts to pump more blood - a self-regulating feature also copied from the way a human heart behaves.

The design "offers the mechanical reliability and the pulse-style flow of traditional displacement pumps with the potential for significant miniaturisation,” Klodell said.

The size of the pump is restricted by available space in the abdominal cavity. Most adults cannot receive a currently available VAD, which requires a body surface area of 1.5 square meters, Stenberg said. For pediatric use, that size shrinks to 0.7 square meters.; Source: University of Florida