Research ArticleCardiovascular Disease

Soft robotic sleeve supports heart function

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Science Translational Medicine  18 Jan 2017:
Vol. 9, Issue 373, eaaf3925
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf3925

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Robots have a change of heart

Ventricular assist devices help failing hearts function by pumping blood but require monitoring and anticoagulant therapy to prevent blood clot formation. Roche et al. created a soft robotic device with material properties similar to those of native heart tissue that sits snugly around the heart and provides ventricular assistance without ever contacting blood. The robotic sleeve uses compressed air to power artificial silicone muscles that compress and twist, mimicking the movements of the normal human heart. The authors show that the artificial muscles could be selectively activated to twist, compress, or simultaneously perform both actions on one side or both sides of the heart. The device increased cardiac ejection volume in vitro and when implanted in adult pigs during drug-induced cardiac arrest.