April 6, 1999


FORT WORTH, Texas -- Researchers with the University of North Texas Health Science Center have created three circulatory devices designed to assist the heart during stressful events such as heart attack, heart failure and heart surgery. The United States Patent Transfer Office has issued a patent for one of the devices, and patent approval is in progress for the remaining two.

The devices, developed by Fred Downey, Ph.D. and Xiaoming Bian, M.D., Ph.D. of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the UNT Health Science Center, use a new concept of intra-aortic balloon pumping, which operate during low blood pressure and enhance blood flow to various organs of the body.

The clinical benefits of the devices can be significant in emergency and during some surgical procedures where heart attacks and heart failure may occur. According to Peter B. Raven, Ph.D., director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the UNT Health Science Center, blood circulation to the heart muscle and other organs is often severely compromised during such emergencies.

Two of the devices, including the one approved for a patent, allow for improved blood flow to the coronary arteries and could replace currently available intra-aortic balloon pumps. The third appliance assists a badly injured or diseased heart by helping it pump sufficient blood to sustain life. This invention is a ventricular assist device, which can be quickly applied and easily removed when the heart recovers its normal function, all without open-chest surgery.

"These devices are significant improvements over current cardiac technology. The creation of these devices helps us understand the role of systolic stiffness (when the heart muscle is tense) and cardiac efficiency," Dr. Raven said. "Their development was largely due to Dr. Bian’s experience as a cardiac surgeon and Dr. Downey’s research on coronary and cardiac physiology."

The patent applications are underwritten by MYTECH, INC. of Tampa, Fla. The other two patent applications are under review and health science center researchers are anticipating approval within the year. The next step involves partnership with a pharmaceutical company to further develop the devices and to expedite their introduction into everyday clinical use.