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Those have not caused any problems like rejection or clotting, commonly seen with artificial hearts or devices. That makes some doctors optimistic that a heart partially constructed from the same tissues could spare patients lifelong anti-rejection and anti-clotting medicines.
The artificial heart would initially be for patients who had suffered a massive heart attack or who had heart failure, but might eventually be used in patients were are not that sick. French doctors hope to start tests in humans in the next two years.
Heart disease is the world's top killer. According to the American Heart Association, about 2,200 heart transplants were performed in the U.S. in 2006, and the waiting list is long.
While previous artificial hearts have mainly acted to buy time until a real heart becomes available, Dr. Ottavio Alfieri, a professor of cardiac surgery at Raffaele University Hospital in Milan and spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology, said the French heart might work in the longer term.
Experts warned that many past attempts to replace the human heart have failed.
"Virtually all devices that have been implanted in humans, no matter how well designed, have been associated with unforeseen complications," said Dr. Tim Gardner, president of the American Heart Association.
"This is a high-risk area with a lot of problems," said Dr. Karl Swedberg, a cardiologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. He doubted the new artificial heart could be used to alleviate the shortage in donors, since it was very expensive and would still require a major operation.
"An artificial heart is an interesting idea, but we should focus on the established treatments we already have," Swedberg said.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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