Soft robot sleeve will help the heart to pump blood
An international group of scientists has developed and successfully tested an implantable soft robotic device on animals, which, by hugging the heart, promotes its contractions. It is intended to help patients with heart failure and waiting for a heart transplant. The results of the work are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine (Roche et al., Soft robotic sleeve supports heart function).
Here and below are drawings from the Harvard University Soft robot helps the heart beat press release
With heart failure, the myocardium of the left ventricle of the heart is not able to provide full blood flow and, as a result, blood supply to organs and tissues. In severe cases, auxiliary ventricular systems are used to maintain blood circulation, which are implantable pumps that pump part of the blood, unloading the left ventricle. Such devices need constant monitoring and require taking anticoagulants to prevent blood clotting.
Employees of Harvard University with colleagues from other research centers have developed an auxiliary device, which is a tight-fitting sleeve made of silicone coated with a biocompatible hydrogel. There are two layers of pneumatic artificial muscles in the sleeve. Like the fibers of the myocardium, the actuators of the inner layer are arranged circularly, and the outer layer is spirally. Their simultaneous contraction causes compression and twisting of the sleeve, repeating the natural movements of the heart. The actuators are connected by hoses to an external pump.
The operation of the pump and, consequently, the contractions of the sleeve are controlled by a programmable robotic system that synchronizes them with the contractions of the heart by ECG or by the speed of blood flow in the aorta. The actuators can be reduced simultaneously or in a predetermined sequence to match the characteristics of myocardial damage in each individual patient and provide maximum assistance to the work of the heart.
Since the robot sleeve is applied outside the heart, it does not come into contact with blood and, therefore, does not cause the formation of blood clots and does not require taking anticoagulants.
The device was tested on six pigs with artificially induced heart failure. By introducing the short-acting beta-adrenoblocker esmolol, the minute volume of blood flow (IOC, the volume of blood ejected by the heart per minute) of animals was reduced to 45 percent of the original. When the auxiliary device was turned on, the IOC increased to 97 percent of the initial level, or by 113 percent (more than 2 times). In addition, the appropriately programmed device was able to provide sufficient blood circulation in complete cardiac arrest.
"This study shows that the growing soft robotics industry can find applications for clinical needs and, possibly, reduce the burden of heart disease and improve the quality of life of patients," concluded one of the authors of the work Ellen Roche (Ellen Roche).
As the researchers write, the work became proof of the concept that soft robots can interact effectively and safely with living tissues. To be introduced into medical practice, the device must undergo large-scale preclinical and clinical trials.
Previously, Swiss scientists have developed a miniature pump to help patients with heart failure, superimposed on the aorta at its exit from the left ventricle of the heart. Peristaltic movements of the device help to remove blood into the aorta, unloading the ventricular myocardium.
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