Nonfiction: The Quest to Create and Perfect an Artificial Heart

These physicians include Cooley and his rival, Michael DeBakey, whose design Cooley supposedly stole. That artificial heart was an unwieldy honeydew melon-size piece of plastic that pumped blood using compressed air. Cooley’s protégé, Bud Frazier, continued the work of refining artificial hearts, eventually championing a design in which the device doesn’t pump so much as continually whir. A patient with such a device would have no pulse, but would nevertheless be alive.

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If you come to “Ticker” expecting a story about the triumph of man over nature, though, you will be disappointed. The Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve a permanent artificial heart. Government funding agencies have become more interested in preventing heart disease than replacing diseased…

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