The cockroach has survived every civilization known to man.
It is hard to believe, however, that these critters could actually be a boon to mankind, which believe it or not, they now seem to be, at least according to some brilliant Indian bioengineers.
The cockroach is at the heart of successful Indian research by scientists who are developing an artificial heart. Using the roach’s heart as a model, the new prototype promises to be much cheaper and more reliable for implantation in humans than models currently in use.
The key to the new heart involves the insect’s unique breathing system. The cockroach is blessed with thirteen blood-pumping chambers while humans only have four. When a chamber falls in a human heart, it usually leads to a fatal cardiac arrest but this new one with 13 chambers can keep pumping even if one breaks down!
“A cockroach’s 13-chambered heart enables the hardy insect to survive even if one chamber dysfunctions, but that is not the case in human beings. Our model is based on the cockroach system, where we build up the pressure in smaller steps. So even if one chamber fails, a person can still live. This model does not stress the other components (pumping elements) and there is less stress on the blood cells”, says team leader Professor Sujoy Guha.
The professor’s ten-member team at the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT) in West Bengal, has spent nearly three years developing the new artificial heart which is made of metal and plastics. It is now being tested on frogs, and the group plans to move on to a goat in May.
Their version is considered a step up from existing commercial types, where blood-pumping pressure is dependent on a single chamber.
“It is advancement but a complex affair. It will take another three years to market the product. It is under trial in animals now and it will take another year to be tested on humans,” according once again to Professor Guha.
At an estimated cost of 100,000 Indian rupees (US $2,000), the new heart is about 30 times cheaper than those available in the market now.