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A gift from the heart

7th February 2019

A new wireless heart pump, with the potential to save countless lives is the first beneficiary of the Roland Bishop bequest to QUT.

When a failing heart can’t move blood on its own, a pump can help keep it flowing.  

However, powering these devices requires a cable running from the heart pump through the skin to a battery - a potential source of infection. 

QUT’s Professor Mahinda Vilathgamuwa and his small team are working on a promising solution for the thousands requiring these devices, developing a wireless system to power ventricular assist devices (VADs).

VADs are mechanical heart-support devices that help a patients’ hearts to keep pumping while they wait for a transplant or recover from cardiac surgery.

The wireless power transfer system developed at QUT reduces the risk of infection, eliminating the need to break the skin to power the pump.

It uses a small copper coil receiver implanted inside the body with a transmitter and battery worn in a holster or a jacket.

“Our system will replace the cable completely," Professor Vilathgamuwa said.

"In tests it has achieved 94 per cent efficiency in powering a commercial heart pump."

The Roland Bishop bequest will enable Professor Vilathgamuwa and his team to progress the system to clinical trials.

The research closely aligns with the passions of the man behind the generous bequest.

Having graduated in 1968 as an electrician from QUT’s predecessor institution, the Central Technical College, Roland Bishop championed the development of medical device technology for critically ill heart patients.

He led the Prince Charles Hospital’s Medical Electronics Division.

In addition to the wirelessly powered heart pump, Mr Bishop’s $254,000 bequest will also support development of a Robotic Musculoskeletal Simulator and the Roland Bishop Biomedical Engineering Research Award.

The Robotic Musculoskeletal Simulator project is led by QUT’s Chair of Biomedical Engineering Professor Peter Pivonka in collaboration with orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ashish Gupta and University of Western Ontario mechatronics expert Professor Louis Ferreira.

When built, the robotic system will mimic dynamic muscle movement, as well as motion within joints to accurately reproduce the conditions experienced by the human body during daily activities.

“Research conducted with the Robotic Musculoskeletal Simulator will lead to better design and testing of medical implants, novel surgical procedures and physiotherapy treatments,” Professor Pivonka said.

“The ultimate goal is to improve lives through facilitating greater understanding of the effect of various surgical procedures and implants to enable better decision making by surgeons.”

The Roland Bishop Biomedical Engineering Research Award is a lasting tribute to Roland Bishop’s dedication to the improvement of medical devices.

To be awarded for the first time in 2019, it will provide a valuable funding boost for researchers to accelerate medical technological advances to enhance the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Randal Bishop, Roland’s son, expressed his delight about the impact created through the gift his father bequeathed to QUT.

“My father would be so proud of what will be achieved as much as we are so proud of him,” said Mr Bishop.

Gifts like Mr Bishop’s have the power to unlock the knowledge we need to benefit our nation and the world around us.

QUT is pleased to work with generous supporters who remember QUT in their wills to ensure their gifts are directed to programs that are most meaningful for them, and aligned with each donor’s vision for the difference they would like to make in the world.

For more information on how to create a lasting legacy through your will, please contact Heath Mackay, Senior Development Officer (Donor Relations and Bequests), on +61 7 31387525 or at heath.mackay@qut.edu.au.