I saw a news story a few years ago (I think) about a girl with a poor heart having a device implant that took over only some of the functioning of her heart ( I think they called it a piggy-back device , or something like that). The extraordinary thing is that it not only helped her live but all the heart functions started to improve. It was as if giving part of the heart a chance to 'rest' allowed the whole heart to improve. If this procedure works could it be applied to other organs? Could a Piggy-Back device be made for the liver taking over only some of its functions for instance? Could such a thing help the liver functions to 'regenerate'?


1 Answer 1


The function of heart is just to pump blood and nothing else. Though, it is a vital organ, its functions are limited. The device that you are talking about is a battery powered mechanical pump that performs the same function as heart.

Liver, however has a more complex function. One of its function is to synthesize and secrete certain molecules. A small artificial device cannot do that (you would need a bioreactor !!!).

We still haven't developed and artificial cell. Perhaps a consortium of bacteria can do some of the liver's functions but to culture them in right proportions and implant them without the risk of infection or their elimination is almost impossible as of now. You can clearly see that there are too many steps to be optimized.

  • $\begingroup$ There was a news story about a device that took over some of a young girl's heart functioning and the girl's heart did improve. It was not a heart pump that took over all its functions. $\endgroup$
    – user128932
    May 1, 2014 at 5:04
  • $\begingroup$ if you can then please post a link to that story. $\endgroup$
    May 1, 2014 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ See this, tell me which one are you talking about ? All artificial hearts do nothing but pump. Even the real heart has no other function. Or do you mean the pacemaker (that is for controlling arrythmic beating) $\endgroup$
    May 1, 2014 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ @user128932 - you can have an implanted assistive device that helps by pumping some of, but not the entire, volume of blood. These are used by patients (and I assume this young girl is one) whose hearts can still pump blood on their own, but for whatever reason are unable to do it under optimal conditions (low pressure and/or low volume caused by incomplete chamber contraction/expansion, backflow from issues like leaky valves, etc.). $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    May 1, 2014 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Yes , this (I think ) was it , an implanted assistive device. The news story even said the young girl's heart improved in function. Could there be an implanted assistive device for the lungs? Thank you MattDMo $\endgroup$
    – user128932
    May 3, 2014 at 3:35

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