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Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Three Indiana universities collaborating to fight leading childhood heart birth defect

Pump could reduce surgeries in affected children by two-thirds

Oct. 14, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Indiana University's Research and Technology Corp. is moving forward with prototype development of a heart pump for infants invented through a collaboration between an IU cardiothoracic surgeon and a Purdue University engineer.

Mark Rodefeld

Dr. Mark Rodefeld, above, is an associate professor of surgery and medical doctor at the IU School of Medicine who has worked with Purdue University School of Mechanical Engineering professor Steven Frankel to develop a new heart pump that could significantly reduce open heart surgeries for and increase the lifespans of affected children.

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IURTC President and Chief Executive Officer Tony Armstrong said the university's not-for-profit economic development agency has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Rose-Hulman Ventures, a program of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, to develop a prototype of a cavopulmonary assist device that could reduce deaths in children born with only one functional heart ventricle.

Single ventricle births are the leading cause of death among all structural birth defects in children during their first year of life. Only 50 to 70 percent of the infant patients survive the required three open heart surgeries -- called the Fontan procedures -- and the cost of the first few months of intensive care for an infant born with the defect is more than $1 million.

The viscous impeller pump (VIP pump), was invented by Dr. Mark Rodefeld, M.D., an associate professor of surgery at the IU School of Medicine, and Steven Frankel, a professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue.

Steven Frankel

Purdue School of Engineering professor Steven Frankel, above, in his office displaying an image related to the computational fluid dynamics modeling of the viscous impeller pump. Indiana University's Research and Technology Corp. recently entered into a memorandum of understanding with Rose-Hulman Ventures in Terre Haute for development of a prototype of the pump.

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"This is by far the sickest group of children we care for at Riley Children's Hospital," Rodefeld said. "To have an opportunity to potentially reduce the number of open-heart surgeries required in these children from three to one, and at the same time improve chances for a positive outcome, is a tremendous opportunity -- and is what drives this collaborative effort. Support from our universities is also critical because the market incentive to develop this device, as is the case for most pediatric medical devices, is not very appealing to the commercial sector."

The pump would be implanted into a four-way intersection of the body's two main veins, the superior and inferior vena cave, and the pulmonary arteries. The device, using a spinning disc, would pull blood from the veins and push it into the arteries. Implanted with the use of a catheter and powered by a magnetic coupling, the pump is unique for its multi-directional flow capabilities.

"IU and Purdue are developing a new class of percutaneous expandable rotary blood pumps with the initial target application to patients with single-ventricular congenital heart disease, and we are pleased to be continuing the all-Hoosier theme by collaborating with Rose-Hulman on prototype development of this new class of blood pumps," Frankel said. "The prototypes are invaluable for testing both in flow loops and for validating computational fluid dynamics models used at Purdue."

The National Institutes of Health has recognized the number of children and adults surviving with single ventricle physiology as an emerging public health concern because those afflicted use medical and monetary resources disproportionately to the number of sufferers.

"Although many years of effort have been invested into this problem by both inventors, a breakthrough in August 2008 finally yielded a novel design that solved a number of critical functional issues," Armstrong said. "The innovation resulting from this strong collaborative effort is being commercialized by both universities in that same spirit of cooperation."

Rose-Hulman Ventures will develop a prototype collapsible disc in order to demonstrate the feasibility of insertion and removal of the disk via a catheter and will also provide two-dimensional drawings and solid models of the finished prototype designs, he added.

"That should enable us to pursue additional prototypes from commercial fabricators," Armstrong said.

To speak with Rodefeld, Frankel or Armstrong, please contact Steve Chaplin, Indiana University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or