Thinking Big, Working Small: Collaboration of UH, Texas Heart Institute Could Make Heart Transplants Obsolete

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Ralph Metcalfe, professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, oversees a revolutionary research project with William Cohn, director of the Center for Technology and Innovation at the Texas Heart Institute. Results are so promising that Metcalfe predicts radical improvement in treatment of failing hearts will happen within a decade.

“This device, once perfected, can have as much impact on society as the polio vaccine had in the 1950s,” he says. “Breakthroughs are coming very fast.”

Working under the guidance of Metcalfe and Cohn, mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate Alex Smith studies how blood flows through a next-generation mechanical blood-pumping device. This will not be like the larger and more cumbersome pumps of past decades, but a small device that can be implanted without major surgery, even removed later if appropriate.