Segments in this Video

Demand for Hearts (01:29)


About half of the people on the heart transplant waiting list will receive a heart. Advancements in biotechnology have led to the growth of heart values and other organs in labs, but has raised ethical questions.

Heart Disease (04:56)

Triathlete Elmar Sprink's heart stopped when he was 38 and it became clear he needed a new heart. About four million Europeans die each year from heart disease. The first heart transplant surgery occurred in 1967 and has since become a routine medical procedure.

Waiting for a Heart (02:58)

The number of heart transplant surgeries has declined because of a lack of available hearts. Sprink receives a heart support system for his left ventricle as he waits. The lack of organs is a particular problem in Germany.

Genetically Modified Hearts (05:33)

Scientists in Germany have experimented using genetically modified pigs to grow organs for humans. Researchers are looking into how a pig heart could be adapted for humans.

Fear of Organ Donation (01:48)

A misconception in Germany that doctors will treat patients who are organ donors differently has caused a drop in donations. In most countries, a patient must have lost all brain function for 12 hours before organs can be removed. EuroTransplant coordinates organ transplants for eight European countries.

Heart Transplant (02:49)

Sprink waits for seven months until a suitable heart donor is found. Heart transplants must occur on a tight schedule with fewer than four hours between donation and transplantation. A new organ care system can keep a heart oxygenated and beating, potentially causing less damage during transportation.

Living with a New Heart (05:30)

Sprink goes home a month after his heart transplant and struggles to return to his normal life. The survival rate for heart transplant recipients decreases dramatically after 10 years because of chronic rejection. Researchers are looking for a way to stop cell rejection without harming the patient's immune system.

Heart Defects (06:48)

Congenital birth defects can cause heart problems in children, who will eventually need heart surgery. Ten-year-old Nick Fuchs has a heart valve defect that forces his heart to work harder to pump blood. He receives a heart valve grown in a lab using tissue engineering.

Growing a Heart (03:04)

Researchers at Harvard University work to grow a functioning human heart. They have created the scaffolding from a pig heart and will grow human heart tissues around it from the patient’s cells.

Cardiac Psychology (03:23)

Three years after his heart transplant, Sprink completes the Ironman triathlon in Frankfurt. Despite his physical fitness, he struggles with PTSD and other mental issues from the trauma of his heart attack. Cardiac psychology has developed in recent years.

Sports Cardiology (02:20)

Sprink regularly meets with a sports cardiologist. His nerves have fused with his new heart, meaning it is controlled by his brain rather than by messengers in his blood.

Artificial Heart (07:47)

Researchers in France are developing a pumping machine that could replace a weak heart. Hydraulic motors would drive the artificial heart; the chambers are divided by bio-membranes made from pig cartilage.

Transalpine Run (03:48)

Sprink gets his heart checked to see if it is healthy enough for him to compete in a seven-day mountain race. He becomes the first heart transplant recipient to compete in the race.

Credits: Iron Heart (00:40)

Credits: Iron Heart

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Iron Heart

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At age 38, Elmar Sprink’s heart stopped suddenly. He was resuscitated, and after a period in ICU, he received a life-saving heart transplant. Typically, a transplanted heart will beat for around 10 years, but Sprink is making every effort to extend this. He has trained hard, and competed in an Ironman competition a mere year after the surgery. Remarkably, new nerve cells are growing around the foreign organ – a phenomenon that has never been observed in an adult heart recipient before. This documentary meets with leading cardiac specialists and scientists to understand Sprink’s case, and to explore advances in the development of new treatments for severe cardiac diseases, both in the near and long-term.

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: FPT169053

ISBN: 978-1-64481-768-1

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

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