The NeuHeart project seeks to extend decidedly the life expectancy of patients facing heart transplantations. An innovative neuroprosthesis has been developed to tackle the unsolved issue of lost neural connection from the vagus nerve in transplanted hearts.

Picture with two surgeons operating a heart.

We are trying to do something nobody has ever tried to do. We call it a moon-shot - Guido Giudetti

Heart transplantation is one of the most remarkable achievement in the history of medicine as well as the last chance for many patients affected by end-stage heart failure.

Since the first successful attempt in 1967, many breakthroughs followed, as the introduction of cyclosporine in the 1980s and many other innovations that constantly improved the success rate of this complex operation. Currently 4000-4500 heart transplantations are performed worldwide every year, as stated in this article, with a 1-year survival rate of 84,5%.There is still large room for improvement.

NeuHeart, a project funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme, now part of the Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot, is an exceptionally ambitious project addressing the unsolved issue of surgical denervation, which inevitably occurs during the transplantation. Restoring the lost connections between the brain and the heart is crucial to ensure the success of the operation, as the nerves regulate the heart pulses. The team is focusing on the development of a smart neuroprosthesis that can perform the work of the control nerve, called vagus nerve.

This FET Proactive/EIC Pathfinder project is funded within the EU funding programme Horizon 2020 and is coordinated by the BioRobotics Institute of Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa. Guido Giudetti, biologist specialising in neurobiology, in this video interview tells how visionary the approach of his team is: “We are trying to do something nobody has ever tried to do. We call it a moon-shot.”

Background

FET-Open and FET-Proactive are now part of the EIC pilot.