The heart that beats inside Charles Okeke's chest is completely artificial. It keeps him alive, but at a price: he's tethered to a 400-lb. machine in a hospital. Thanks to a revolutionary backpack-sized breakthrough, he can finally go home again.
Click to viewCalled the Freedom Driver, the device is a miniaturized version of the large, bulky cabinet seen in the video above that Okeke had to wheel around with him wherever he wanted to go. It worked fine, but the unwieldy device confined Okeke to the hospital for the better part of the past two years.
Enter the backpack, and new-found freedom. Pretty amazing stuff, although not without its caveats.
Questions remain about the power supply, and whether it will be enough to maintain not only heart function, but liver and kidney function as well. In effect, this device has become an additional organ that Okeke and his doctors will need to maintain and monitor until a new transplant heart (of the organic variety) can be located. It should be noted that doctors are confident Okeke could use the device indefinitely if it comes to that.
Oh, and then there's the price: At $125,000 plus $18,000/year in maintenance costs, the Freedom Driver will not be beating in the chests of all 3,000+ heart transplant wait list patients anytime soon. Still, an amazing first step forward toward our inevitable cyborg future. [CBS News via CNET]