New Hope for Heart Patients

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Larry Latham enjoys volunteering at his church's food pantry. But he hasn't always felt well enough to do it.

A few years ago, Larry was told he has heart failure. "I couldn't do anything. I'd just sit around all the time, slept. I didn't have any energy." That's because Larry's heart has weakened and it doesn't pump enough blood.

While a pacemaker has helped him get back on track, Dr. Charles Love of Ohio State University's Ross Heart Hospital says three out of four heart failure patients are not good candidates to use them because the timing of their heartbeats isn't the problem. "They have normally functioning walls in terms of when they squeeze. They just aren't squeezing enough."

So Dr. Love is testing an implantable device he hopes will be a new option. It's called the Optimizer II. Just as the heart begins a beat, this device sends out tiny electrical shocks. Love says the signal acts as a booster -- helping the weakened muscles to pump harder and ultimately get stronger. "It changes the genetic expression within the heart. It changes the calcium flow within the heart and it allows the heart to beat more strongly."

If the Optimizer II proves successful in these clinical trials, it could someday help hundreds of thousands of heart failure patients feel better and maintain their daily routines.

Ohio State University is one of a dozen centers around the country testing the Optimizer II. Trials are just getting underway and are expected to last a year.