Professor Domingo Santo Liotta, MD

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Domingo S. Liotta was born in the city of Diamante, Argentina, on November 29, 1924. At the National University of Córdoba, Argentina, he graduated as a medical doctor in July 1949 and he received a doctorate in Medicine and Surgery in 1953. At the University of Córdoba he developed a method for the Early Radiological Diagnosis of the Tumor of the Pancreas and Ampulla of Vater (1954-55), which he later continued extensively at the University of Lyon and extended its clinical application in Europe. In the period 1956-59, Dr. Liotta carried on his General and Thoracic Surgical Residency (Assistant Étranger) in the University of Lyon in France. During the residency he started his work on the Total Artificial Heart (1959). He continued this research at the National University of Córdoba (1960).

From July 1961 Dr. Liotta Dr. Liotta went on his studies in Baylor University, Houston, Texas and entered Dr. Michael E.DeBakey´s Department of Cardiovascular Surgery as an Assistant Professor.

In 1961 Dr. Liotta discovered the Cardiocirculatory Assistance (LVASs) with an incorporated artificial ventricle for the treatment of irreversible heart failure and on July 19 1963, Dr. Liotta and Dr. Crawford performed the first clinical implantation in the history of medicine with an intrathoracic pump at the Methodist Hospital in Houston.

Willem J. Kolff, MD, in the 60s
E. Stanley Crawford, MD, in the 60s
At the time he and Domingo Liotta implanted an LVAD for the first time in a patient (July 19, 1963).

Domingo Liotta was an Observer in the Department of Artificial Organs of the Cleveland Clinic (from March to July 1961). Dr Kolff was the Director of the Department at that time.
Willem J. Kolff, Domingo Liotta and T. Akutsu are historically considered the first to start the experimentation of the Total Artificial Heart (TAH) in animals. Cardiac prostheses were placed in an orthotopic position, that is, inside the pericardial sac after resection of the native heart.
Domingo Liotta started the studies of the Artificial Heart Hemodynamics at the University of Lyon in France during the last year of his Residency (Assistant Étranger) in General and Thoracic Surgery (1958-59).
Domingo Liotta commenced the Total Artificial Heart replacement of the native heart in the animal laboratory at the National University of Córdoba in Argentina. The year 1960 marked a marathon crash program on the TAH research at the University of Córdoba. Engineer Tomasso Taliani, an old Italian immigrant, a true gem of engineering thought was an invaluable collaborator. Liotta published two original and well-recognized papers of those fighting times1,2.

1. Liotta D., Taliani T., Giffoniello A.H., Sarria Deheza F., Liotta S., Lizarraga R., Tolocka R., Pagano J., Biancciotti E.: Artificial Heart in the chest: Preliminary report. Trans. Amer. Soc. Int. Organs, 1961; 7:318-22.
2. Liotta D., Taliani T., Giffoniello A.H., Liotta S., Lizarraga R., Tolocka L., Pagano J.: Ablation experimentale et replacement du coeur par un coer artificial intra-thoracique. Lyon Chirurgical, 1961; 57:704-14.

In April 1966, together with Dr.DeBakey at the Methodist Hospital, he started the use of LVASs with paracorporeal pumps; this work culminated in the implantation in a patient suffering from irreversible postcardiotomy cardiogenicshock on August 6 1966; myocardial function was totally recovered, thus this was the first case of a patient´s recovery in the history of medicine; the patient died 10 years later in a road accident in Mexico
Domingo Liotta created Assisted Circulation -the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) system- at Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston in 19611-11.
Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was the Chairman of the Department of Surgery at that time.
Liotta accomplished the LVAD fundamental animal research work at Baylor University in 1961-66. The successful intensive experimental work allowed the first clinical application of the Intrathoracic Liotta-Crawford LVAD, in the evening of July 19 1963.
In October 1966, a patient underwent a double valve replacement but could not be weaned from extracorporeal circulation. Then, a Paracorporeal Liotta-DeBakey LVAD was implanted. After support by the ventricular assist device for ten days at a flow rate of 1,200 mL/min, the patient recovered, making this the first successful use of a left ventricular device for postcardiotomy shock.
Today LVAD systems are in clinical practice as (1) a bridge for cardiac transplantation and (2) a bridge for myocardial recovery.
Michael E. DeBakey, MD, in the 60s
Dr. DeBakey (foreground) and Dr. Liotta (holding the pump) at the historic cardiac surgery: implantation of the Liotta-DeBakey left ventricular assist device (LVAD) in a Paracorporeal Position at Methodist Hospital, Houston (April 21, 1966)
  On April 4 1969 Drs. Cooley and Liotta implanted the first Total Artificial Heart with kept the patient alive for 64 hours before he received a heart transplant.
Denton A. Cooley, MD, in the 60s
Historical Operation, the first in medical history.
Total heart Replacement with an Artificial Heart in orthotopic position (inside the pericardial sac). On the left Dr. Liotta, in the center of the picture the empty pericardial sac of the patient, Mr. H. Karp. On the right the hands of Dr. Cooley holding Mr. Karp’s heart and the artificial heart just before implantation. Texas Heart Institute, Houston (April 4, 1969).
Corner picture: Dr. Cooley is holding both the removed artificial heart and the donor heart. (April 7, 1969).

Domingo Liotta resumed his work on Total Artificial Heart (TAH) at Baylor University College of Medicine in July 1968. The straightforward objective was to use it in a patient either in irreversible cardiogenic shock postcardiotomy or in irreversible ‘stone heart’.
The decisive objective was to prolong a patient’s life by means of a mechanical heart until the implant of a donor human heart could definitively replace the artificial system. The procedure is now called two-staged cardiac transplantation.
The historical operation -one of the greatest medical adventures of the XX Century- was performed for the first time in the afternoon of April 4 1969. A dying human being was able to live with the Liotta-Cooley TAH until a donor human heart replaced it. That was a medical hard time, but full of glory and courage. The original clinical prototype of Liotta-Cooley TAH was selected in 2006 to be displayed prominently in the new Smithsonian Treasures of American History. In Dr. Cooley´s opinion, “this establishes it as a worthy part of human history”.


Left, Dr. Liotta is talking to Mr. Karp and Dr. Cooley is observing (April 5, 1969). Right, Mrs. Shirley Karp and Mr. Haskell Karp
(April 5, 1969)


In July 1971 Liotta returned to Argentina and was surgeon-in- chief of the Cardiovascular Service of the Italian Hospital of Buenos Aires from said year to 1990 when he became Honorary Chief.

He was also State Secretary of Public Health (1973-74), State Secretary for Science and Technology (1993-96), and President of the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET), (1993-96).

Dr. Liotta opened scientific and cultural relations with the Popular Republic of China and signed the Scientific and Cultural Treaty—in November 1973-- with Premier Chou En-lai; and in Israel in Jerusalem, in 1974, he signed with President Ephrain Katzir and Minister Aba Ebban a similar agreement.

November 8, 1973, Beijing, China. Dr. Domingo Liotta with Premier Chou-en Lai at the Government House in the People’s Republic of China.
President of Israel Professor Ephrain Katzir, MD; Mrs. Liotta; and D. Liotta. Jerusalem (1974).
Reproduced from Amazing Adventures of a Heart Surgeon, Chapter 29: “Israel, the Relieving Melancholy of Old Time”, page 260.
Dr. Morris Levy, Surgeon-in-Chief at the Beilinson Hospital in Petah-Tikva, a town near Tel-Aviv, and Dr. Liotta. A conference on Cardiac Valve Replacement (May 11, 1974)
Reproduced from Amazing Adventures of a Heart Surgeon, Chapter 29: “Israel, the Relieving Melancholy of Old Time”, page 256.
Guangzhou, China. Honorary Director of the Cardiovascular Center (1990)
Discussion of medical strategies with Chinese doctors at the Cardiovascular Center of Guangzhou (Canton), China 1990.

Since 1996 Dr. Liotta has been the Founder and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine , Professor of Clinical Anatomy and Director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute in the University of Morón. He is a member of numerous medical associations and is the author or co-author of more than 170 publications on medical issues and also on Humanism and Science. He is the author of 22 patents. His autobiography “Amazing Adventures of a Heart Surgeon” was published in 2007.

For his medical and humanitarian contributions, Dr. Liotta has received numerous awards, such as the Great Cross of Alfonso the Wise, Spain's highest civilian award; Gran Cavaliere d'Onore for Humanitarian Services, Italy's highest civilian award; Honorary Directorship, Heart Center in Guangzhou, China; Organ Replacement Science Award of the International Society for Artificial Organs in 1997. He was decorated by the Government of Brazil as Chancellor da Ordem Nacional do Merito Cientifico and received the National Medal for Scientific Merit in 1996.

Dr. Liotta has been honored as Cardiovascular Surgeon of the Hospitals in the Popular Republic of China, by means of a famous resolution signed by the Premier Chou En-lai and his State Council in 1973 and Dr.Liotta has kept his promise to train Chinese surgeons and cardiologists; he performed this activity for 23 years either on China soil or in his Service of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Italian Hospital in Buenos Aires. The last surgeon who studied in Argentina with Dr.Liotta was Dr. Wang Tian You in 1996-1997; he later became surgeon-in- chief of the Cardiovascular Service of the Frienship Hospital in Beijing.

Doubtless , in human behaviour, it is extremely important to keep one´s word; For 23 years Dr.Liotta has been as good as his word given on November 8 1973 to the Premier Chou En-lai and his State Council regarding the fact that Argentina would strongly contribute to the improvement of cardiovascular science in the Popular Republic of China. In his autobiography Dr. Liotta says that he learnt more from the practical approach of the thousand-year-old Chinese culture than he could teach about cardiovascular surgical strategy throughout those 23 years!

Humanistic Research in China: Liotta published his studies on 18 Chinese phonemes which have a strong spiritualistic connotation when the hieroglyph of the word heart is incorporated into the ideogram.

For example, in Latin Cor, Cordis means heart in Latin and we have cor-dial, con-cord, cor-dially, cor-dialness, con-cor-dance, Cou-rage, cou-rageously, dis-cou-ragement, ran-cor, ran-cor-ous. Liotta states that from the linguistic point of view the Chinese language comes from the Tibetan-Burmese language family and there are no open communication roots shared with the Indo-European languages from the philological point of view. Indeed, they are distant languages; however, when the hyeroglyph of the Word heart is inserted into its ideograms, the phoneme turns into a word having an extremely significant and determinant spiritualistic meaning.


“It is a moving testimony of the spiritual unity of mankind since the mists of time. Mankind has a unique spiritual golden mother since time immemorial; in both cases, the hieroglyph of ´heart´ or the word ´heart´ in Indo-European languages is at the core of this spiritual nucleus.”

University of Morón - Buenos Aires - Argentina

July 2014