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Soft Robot Helps the Heart Beat

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The soft robotic heart sleeve.

Harvard University and Boston Childrens Hospital researchers have developed a customizable soft robot that fits around a heart and helps it beat.

Credit: Ellen Roche/Harvard University

Researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital have developed a customizable soft robot that twists and compresses in sync with a beating heart, augmenting cardiovascular functions compromised by heart failure.

The new device does not come into contact with blood and eliminates the need for a patient to take blood thinner medications.

The device's thin silicone sleeve uses soft pneumatic actuators to mimic the outer muscle layers of a human heart. The actuators twist and squeeze the sleeve in a motion similar to the way a heart beats.

The device is attached to an external pump, which uses air to power the actuators. The sleeve also is customizable, so patients with more weakness on one side of the heart can receive more assistance on that side from the actuators.

More research must be done before the device can be implanted in humans, but researchers believe the robot will create valuable new treatment options for people 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," says former Harvard postdoctoral student Ellen T. Roche.

From Harvard University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2017 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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