Scientists have created a new soft robot that successfully reanimated several pigs’ hearts after they failed. The technology could one day keep an ailing human heart pumping as a patient waits for a transplant.
Constructed of silicon, the robot uses “multiple linear contractile elements oriented spatially in a soft matrix and actuated synergistically” to cradle the heart in a soft embrace, squeezing and twisting from the bottom upward to mimic the natural rhythm of lub-dub … lub-dub.
Devices to assist failing hearts already exist, but they must placed within the heart, coming into contact with the blood. This requires drugs and continuous monitoring to stave off dangerous clots. Current technologies also fail to accurately mimic the twisting squeeze our own heart muscles achieve with regularity every moment of our lives.
Researchers from institutions in the US and Europe believe their soft robotic sleeve solves both of these issues. It never touches the actual blood, and it can also be fine-tuned to mimic the motions of the patient’s heart it’s meant to grasp and assist. The research is an early prototype and must be further tested in the lab before human clinical trials are possible.
Read more about the research in Science Translational Medicine.