A team of medical researchers and computer scientists from the Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University have created an artificial heart sleeve using soft robotics. The artificial heart sleeve will greatly improve the odds of survival of patients who suffered one or more debilitating heart attacks. This device is capable of mimicking the movements of a human heart, and to stimulate it, should the need arise.
The team of scientist who created the artificial heart sleeve declared that their invention would definitely be a game-changer for patients whose hearts were weakened as a result of various cardiovascular events.
Conor Walsh, the study’s senior authors, declared that although the artificial heart sleeve was designed to mimic the irregular movements of a weakened heart, the device’s primary function is to stabilize and optimize cardiac activity.
Walsh also stated that the artificial heart sleeve is more efficient than any cardiac stimulation devices currently sold on the market since the device was designed to cover the heart, and not to be mounted inside.
Probably the most innovative aspect of the artificial heart sleeve is its ability to synchronize the device with the heart’s movements. Welsh said that the sleeve is outfitted with artificial muscles, which can contract, relax, and twist just like the cardiac muscle. These lab-made muscles are powered by pressurized air.
However, the device does have a limitation. The pressurized air powering the artificial muscles is stored inside a tank, which the patient would have to carry inside a container. Still, the tank is small enough to fit inside a fanny pack, a purse, or a backpack.
Most importantly, the artificial heart sleeve’s settings can be customized for each patient. So, how good is the new cardiac device, and is it ready to be used in the field?
Welsh and his team believe that, although more work is needed to improve the device’s functionality, the clinical tests performed so far have yielded encouraging results.
The researchers tested the artificial heart sleeve on six domestic pigs with a weakened heart. As the researchers noted, the device managed to stabilize the heart’s movement and to normalize the blood flow.
Welsh and his team are also intrigued to study the long-term effects of the device. They’ve declared that if the device is worn long enough, it might even stimulate the heart’s self-healing properties.
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