* First patient died after 2-1/2 months with the device
* Inventor says heart stopped due to short circuit
* Founder says will take "few weeks" to find reasons for
By John Irish
PARIS, March 16 French artificial heart maker
Carmat will not carry out any more human transplants
until it has determined the cause of the death of the first
patient fitted with its device, one of the company's co-founders
said on Sunday.
Carmat's first patient, a 76-year-old man, died on March 2
in Paris, two and a half months after his operation.
Before he was fitted with the device, the man was suffering
from terminal heart failure, when the sick heart can no longer
pump enough blood to sustain the body, and was said to have only
a few weeks, or even days, to live.
"Patients are still being chosen, but of course we will wait
to hear a little more on the causes of the death of the first
patient before transplanting another artificial heart," Philippe
Pouletty, director general of Truffle Capital, one of the main
shareholders in Carmat told i>Tele television.
The device's inventor, French surgeon Alain Carpentier, told
the weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday that the heart had
stopped after a short circuit, although the exact reasons behind
the death were still unknown.
Carmat's device is designed to replace the real heart for as
many as five years, mimicking nature's work using biological
materials and sensors. It aims to extend life for terminally ill
patients who cannot hope for a real organ because they are too
old and donors too scarce.
"We are trying to understand where this electronic problem
came from and why," Carpentier said. " Our engineers are working
night and day to understand and they will find (the reason)."
Three more patients in France with terminal heart failure
and no other therapeutic option are due to be fitted with
Pouletty, who said his firm had last week bought back shares
in the company to show he backed the device, said the decision
on the next transplant would be taken with an independent
committee once the analysis was complete in a "few weeks."
"I just want to remind you that for the first tests the
survival expectation was 30 days and the first patient survived
two and a half months after his transplant," he said.
Carmat has previously said that if it passed this first
safety test, it would fit the device into about 20 more with
less severe heart failure later this year, with an aim to
request the right to market its device in Europe by 2015.
According to Carmat's website, aviation group Airbus
owned a 29.6 percent stake in the firm as of Dec. 31.
The company has said it had enough cash and subsidies to
fund its activities until 2015. But it could seek an injection
of funds from fresh investors at some point to help fund its
(Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Rosalind