The boost brought hope that at least one sector of France’s struggling economy can forge ahead on the world stage, with a potential market worth billions for hearts that will cost upwards of 160,000 euros per operation.
On Monday, French newspaper of record Le Monde lauded last week’s successful operation as a medical “world first” and a much-needed lift to the country’s medical industry.
“Above all this is good for France, a country that is obsessed with decline rather than progress” said Le Monde in its front-page editorial.
The operation took place on Wednesday at the Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris and was announced publicly on Friday, when the patient was awake and talking to his family.
French President François Hollande said: “France can be proud of this exceptional achievement in the service of human progress.”
But in a warning to the French government to halt austerity spending cuts on medical research, Le Monde’s editorial concluded: “The artificial heart is just one example [of successful innovation], it cannot be allowed to remain an exception.”
‘A good patient’
Artificial hearts are not new. But the Carmat device differs in that it aims to give patients a longer-term alternative to existing technologies, while enabling patients to resume an almost normal day-to-day life.
The Carmat device is a self-contained unit implanted in the patient’s chest. It uses soft “biomaterials” and an array of sensors to mimic the contractions of the heart, with the aim of reducing the risk of blood clots and rejection by the immune system.
The patient will have to wear a belt of lithium batteries to power the heart.
Carmat co-founder Alain Carpentier, who led the operation, has spent 25 years working on the development of the artificial heart, which he says can beat for up to five years.
He said he was grateful to the patient “who has a lot of humour, he is a good patient”, for taking part in the trial, which is set to be rolled out to other patients in the coming months.
Carmat, which estimates that 100,000 transplants are needed in Europe and the United States, is now valued at 554 million euros on the Paris stock exchange, 52 percent more than this time last year.