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How to mend a broken heart.

  • Fong, Kevin.
  • Videos

About this work

Also known as

How to fix a broken heart.


Dr Kevin Fong finds out how close scientists are to being able to mend a heart if it stops working. Fong plays squash with recent heart transplant recipient Max Crompton. Compton discusses his reactions to receiving a new heart, caring for it and his future expectations. Fong discusses the history of Heart transplants and due to its limited suitability alternative methods were soon sought out. In Oklahoma one such method is being developed; the Syncardia Temporary Total Artificial Heart, a piece of medical technology that can replace the function of the biological heart. Dr James Long discusses how the technology is implanted into a human. Cardiologist Dr Douglas Horstmanshof talks about post care for patients who have an artificial heart. Fong meets with Troy Golden who has an artificial heart powered by a pump he carries in a rucksack. Golden talks about the impact this operation has had on his life. Fong notes this temporary cure is not the answer to mending failing hearts but a bridge to transplantation. Whilst handling a dissected heart, Fong discusses the complexities of the organ and its function. Fong visits the British Olympic rowing team to examine the heart when it is pushed to the limits of its capabilities. Using a Cardiogram Dr Len Shapiro examines the structure of the heart and its function while at rest and while exercising. He explores the differences in the hearts of trained athletes and average people and the ways in which the heart can be strengthened. Fong argues the heart is an organ in a state of continual change and taking into account aging and disease one can start to understand why it is so difficult to repair or replace. Fong visits scientists at the University of Minnesota who are trying to save lives by assisting the heart's function. Professor Paul Iaizzo talks about a technique he developed that brings dead hearts back to life, thus giving scientists the opportunity to study the heart in motion. Iaizzo reanimates a pig heart to demonstrate the technique and a fibre optic camera is inserted into the heart to examine every aspect of its internal structure. In London, Professor Nic Smith and Professor Reza Razavi have designed a three dimensional virtual heart which allows the encapsulation of everything known about the patient so that doctors can understand what is going wrong and explore how to mend it. Using pacemaker implants as an example, Fong displays how this technology offers far more possibilities to help the individual than previous 2D method of X Ray. This technology can create a personalised model of the patient’s heart which is capable of being experimented on without harming the patient and thus allow earlier intervention before any real damage happens. A different method to mend a broken heart draws on the body’s ability to fix itself. Asif Hasan talks about 6 year old medical mystery, Hannah, whose heart had failed 5 times. Hasan tells how whilst waiting for a donor Hannah was put on a Berlin Heart. However, several days later her heart started contracting again of its own volition. Dr Richard Kirk discusses how Hannah’s heart at restseemed to repair itself. Stem cell therapy is being researched to capitalise on the idea that the heart might be able to regenerate. Fong meets Dr Doris Taylor who has travelled to Madrid to further her work in mending broken hearts. Taylor explains her aim to use stems cells to build a brand new heart and shows Fong the technology and process she has invented to facilitate this. Fong concludes that the search for a way to mend a 'broken' heart reflects the story of medicine; the war against disease, incredible courage of individuals and the search for deeper understanding and that now we are on the cusp of something generally extraordinary.


UK : BBC 2, 2011.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 mins) : sound, color, PAL.


Broadcast on 14 February, 2011

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Sophie Robinson.

Copyright note




  • English

Where to find it

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    OpenOnline request

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