Scientists are working on the innovative biocompatible pump that is expected to have an effect similar to the arc reactor that kept Iron Man alive. If the device in question works as desired, people with heart disease will be able to continue their healthy lives for many years.
With over 50 years of history in Marvel comics, the Iron Man character is Robert Downey Jr. and managed to be one of the most popular characters in the cinema world for 11 years, from the first Iron Man movie released in 2008 to Avengers: Endgame, which was released in 2019.
Most of us know the origin story of Iron Man, but let’s remind those who don’t: Tony Stark was kidnapped by terrorists during a gun test in Afghanistan. During the kidnapping attempt, a bomb explodes near him and many pieces of shrapnel hit his chest. Tony Stark invents the arc reactor, which is essentially an electromagnet to prevent shrapnel from reaching his heart.
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 17 million people die each year from cardiovascular diseases. Is it possible to use an arc reactor or similar device to prevent these losses?
Tony Stark used palladium and rhodium when he invented the arc reactor that prevented shrapnel in his chest from reaching his heart and powered the Iron Man armor. However, those who watched the movie Iron Man 2 will remember that these two elements caused Tony to suffer heavy metal poisoning. In contrast, Tony had synthesized a new element for the arc reactor. So in order to develop an arc reactor in real life, we first need to discover or synthesize an element suitable for it.
Regardless, we can say that the real world is not far from Iron Man either. When the world’s first pacemaker was inserted into a patient’s heart in 1972, it contained a radioactive element called plutonium-238. However, since the battery does not perform a chain reaction to generate energy, we cannot say it is a mini nuclear reactor. Nevertheless, plutonium-238 has been replaced by lithium batteries, as it has a nuclear waste problem, similar to Tony Stark’s heavy metal poisoning problem.
However, an ongoing team at Harvard University Medical School stated in an article published in Science Translational Medicine last month that they are developing an innovative biocompatible pump that will support people with heart failure for years, just as the arc reactor kept Tony Stark alive. The biocompatible pump in question is said to be a real-world arc reactor for those with heart disease.