Scientists Develop Bionic Heart Promises Better Cardiac Devices

Saturday, February 1, 2020 - 10:36

MIT researchers have developed a bionic heart that can be used to test heart valves and other cardiac implants under realistic conditions.

According to the New Atlas report, prosthetic heart valves have saved or dramatically improved the quality of life for countless people, with an estimated 280,000 valves installed worldwide each year.

a team led by MIT started out with a real biological heart, which had its muscle tissue replaced with soft robotic material that forms artificial muscles. These use inflatable bubbles, which make the bionic heart squeeze and twist in a way similar to that of a real one as it pumps blood. The research was published in Science Robotics.

Once the "biorobotic hybrid heart," was assembled, it was placed in a mold cast from the original heart, which was filled with silicone to form a uniform covering over the device. This gave the bionic heart a form very like that of a real heart and helped ensure the artificial muscles fit snugly around the real ventricle it was attached to. When the air was pumped into the tubes at frequencies like to those of a living heart, it contracted in a similar manner.

"Imagine that a patient before cardiac device implantation could have their heart scanned, and then clinicians could tune the device to perform optimally in the patient well before the surgery," says team member Chris Nguyen. "Also, with further tissue engineering, we could potentially see the biorobotic hybrid heart be used as an artificial heart – a very needed potential solution given the global heart failure epidemic where millions of people are at the mercy of a competitive heart transplant list."

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