New customisable soft robot to assist heart failure patients

19 January 2017 (Last Updated January 19th, 2017 18:30)

Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital researchers have designed a customisable soft robot to help the heart beat after heart failure.

New customisable soft robot to assist heart failure patients

Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital researchers have designed a customisable soft robot to help the heart beat after heart failure.

The thin silicone robotic sleeve fits around the heart using soft pneumatic actuators and act as the outer muscle layers of the mammalian heart.

The actuators then twist and compress the sleeve synching with the beating heart, improving cardiovascular functions affected by heart failure.

The device is tethered to an external pump which powers the soft actuators by exerting air pressure.

The sleeve can be customised in accordance to each patient’s needs, for example if a patient experiences more weakness on the left side of the heart, the actuators can be adapted to particularly assist on that side. The pressure of the actuators can also be regulated keeping in pace with the patient’s condition.

The sleeve is attached to the heart using a suction device, sutures and a gel interface in order to address possibility of friction between the device and the heart.

Research paper author and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and The Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University former student Ellen Roche said:  “This research is really significant at the moment because more and more people are surviving heart attacks and ending up with heart failure.

"Soft robotic devices are ideally suited to interact with soft tissue and give assistance that can help with augmentation of function, and potentially even healing and recovery."

“Soft robotic devices are ideally suited to interact with soft tissue and give assistance that can help with augmentation of function, and potentially even healing and recovery.”

Unlike the current available devices, Harvard’s soft robotic sleeve does not directly come in contact with blood which minimises risk of clotting as well as eliminates need to administer harmful blood thinning medications.

Currently, the device will undergo further research to determine its feasibility to be implanted in human.


Image: The customisable soft robot. Photo: courtesy of Ellen Roche / Harvard University.