The Artificial Heart

A patient who received an artificial heart in August has recovered sufficiently to return home, the French company that makes the device said on Monday, signaling a milestone toward the possible commercialization of the device.

“It’s incredible, there’s no other word for it,” Alain F. Carpentier, the French surgeon who invented the device, said in an interview posted on Monday on the website of Le Parisien, a French daily newspaper.

The patient, 68, “is living a completely normal life now,” Dr. Carpentier said, adding that the man had been “pedaling like crazy” on a stationary bike. The patient has asked that his identity remain confidential, the company said; it provided no details about him. 

The man, who had terminal congestive heart failure, received the implant at the University of Nantes hospital on Aug. 5, Carmat, the medical device start-up founded in part by Dr. Carpentier that built the heart, said on Monday. The patient was discharged with a portable power and alert system that leaves him with “mobility and autonomy in excellent conditions.”

Carmat is among a handful of companies trying to realize the dream of a permanent artificial replacement heart, a technology that might one day save tens of thousands of lives. Scientists have been seeking to develop a total artificial heart for decades. In 1982, the Jarvik-7 was the first to be successfully implanted in a human.

Carmat, based in the Paris suburb of Vélizy-Villacoublay, was founded in 2008 to develop a “bioprosthetic total artificial heart.” Dr. Carpentier, a world-renowned expert on valve replacement, and his team are receiving technological help from Airbus Group, the aircraft maker, which has provided financial backing. 

Other backers include the venture investor Truffle Capital and Bpifrance, a French government innovation fund.

Carmat shares soared by more than 17 percent on Monday in morning trading in Paris. The stock, which had lost 39 percent of its value in the 12 months through the market close on Friday, tends to be highly volatile. Carmat, which went public in 2010, has been losing money since its inception.

​Caroline Carmagnol, a spokeswoman for Carmat, said the company was now focusing on finishing the current trials, which would include enrolling ​another ​two patients. “Then we will massively communicate” on the next step, she said.

In terminal heart failure, the heart is too weak to pump blood efficiently throughout the body, and those with the condition experience shortness of breath even when resting, leaving many people to live out their days confined to their homes. As many as 20 million people have the condition in the United States and Europe. But there are few treatment options beyond heart transplantation, and the supply of organs is woefully short of what is needed.

A total artificial heart replaces the two lower chambers, or ventricles, of the organ. Carmat’s device, which is made with synthetic materials and animal tissues, is operated by electric motors. It was first implanted in a living human, a 76-year-old man, in December 2013. He lived for 74 days, more than twice the test success benchmark of 30 days. 

The August implantation in Nantes was carried out by a team led by Daniel Duveau, a thoracic surgeon. The operation to implant the device took six hours, down from more than eight hours for the first patient, and the patient was quickly discharged from intensive care.

Carmat intends to sell the device to patients who are ineligible for transplants and who have no other possible treatments. It estimates that the device will eventually sell for 140,000 euros to 180,000 euros, or about $162,000 to $208,000.