The World's First Soft Robotic Sleeve Helps the Heart Beat

Saturday, May 5, 2018 - 10:41

A team of scientists from Harvard University in cooperation with Boston Children’s Hospital researchers have developed the world's first soft robotic sleeve that is fitted around the heart, where it twists and compresses the heart's chambers just like healthy cardiac muscle would.

According to the Harvard University official website, the soft robotic sleeve twists and compresses in synch with a beating heart, augmenting cardiovascular functions weakened by heart failure.

To create an entirely new device that doesn’t come into contact with blood, Harvard researchers took inspiration from the heart itself. The thin silicone sleeve uses soft pneumatic actuators placed around the heart to mimic the outer muscle layers of the mammalian heart. The actuators twist and compress the sleeve in a motion similar to the beating heart.

Unlike currently available devices that assist heart function, Harvard’s soft robotic sleeve does not directly contact blood. This reduces the risk of clotting and eliminates the need for a patient to take potentially dangerous blood thinner medications. The device may one day be able to bridge a patient to transplant or help in cardiac rehabilitation and recovery.

“This research demonstrates that the growing field of soft robotics can be applied to clinical needs and potentially reduce the burden of heart disease and improve the quality of life for patients,” said Ellen T. Roche, the paper’s first author and a former Ph.D. student at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering.

The research, published in Science Translational Medicine, was a collaboration between SEAS, the Wyss Institute, and Boston Children’s Hospital.

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