Robots sleeve mimics heart muscles
A team of researchers has designed a robotic soft sleeve capable of artificially mimicking the muscles of the heart. This new technology could be a lifesaver for individuals with heart failure awaiting transplant.
Each year, 17.7 million people die from Cardiovascular Disease CVDs, an estimated 31% of all deaths worldwide. >75% of CVD deaths occur in the low-income and middle-income countries. 80% of all CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and stroke.
Each year, more than 2,000 people in the United States receive heart transplants and a staggering 5.7 million experience heart failure.
Heart failure occurs, when either of the heart’s ventricles can no longer fulfill their duty of pumping blood around the body.
The waiting list for heart transplants is long, and many people die before a donor is found. Designing ways to extend the lives while patients wait for a new organ are therefore a priority.
Currently, ventricular assist devices (VADs) can be used to improve the health of patients with end-stage heart failure awaiting a transplant. However, they are not ideal.
VADs work by pumping blood from the heart and pushing it around the body. To work, the blood has to leave the confines of the blood vessels and travel through tubes and rotors.
Because of this contact with the foreign material, the patient needs to take anticoagulants. These drugs can make VADs a viable solution, but they also increase the risk of stroke by 20 percent.
Besides VADs, cardiac sleeves are another option; they sit around the heart and squeeze it in order to replicate muscular contractions. These heart compression interventions are also far from perfect and, until recently, had been all but abandoned.
This soft, cardiac sleeve could revive a failing heart
Currently, the only pump machines available are made of tough metal, and blood has to run through the pump, exposing it to the unnatural material.
This new device comprises three parts: a C-shaped ‘frame’ that goes around the heart, an ‘anchor’ that sticks into the heart to hold the frame in place, and a soft rubber band that replicates a muscle.
Crucially, it could be used for pediatric patients with congenital conditions, who often only have an issue on one side of their heart, so invasive pump insertion is overkill.
It comprises three parts: a c-shaped ‘frame’ that goes around the heart, an ‘anchor’ that sticks into the heart to hold the frame in place, and a soft rubber band that replicates a muscle
The researchers set out to develop new technology that would help one diseased ventricle, when the patient is in isolated left or right heart failure, pull blood into the chamber and then effectively pump it into the circulatory system.
They designed two versions of the system, one for the right and one to the left ventricle.
The main breakthrough is that this pump is the fact that the anchor connects with the septum, one of the most crucial parts of the heart for pumping blood.
The traditional pumps, which fix to the left ventricle, can trigger what’s known as a ‘septum shift,’ pushing everything towards the right side, causing it to balloon.
This design has a rigid brace keeps the septum in its original position, protecting the healthy right side of the heart from the mechanical load of the left ventricular assistance.
The rigid brace component is deployed via a needle into the heart’s interventricular septum, the wall of tissue between the heart’s chambers, to prevent the septum from shifting under the pressure of the artificial ‘muscle’ of the soft actuator.
The device’s structure also draws blood into the ventricles more effectively, which is half the battle.
As the actuators relax, specially designed elastic bands help return the heart’s wall to its original position, filling the chamber sufficiently with blood.
One of the greatest benefits of this system would be that blood does not have to pass through the pump.
Patients who get a pump to treat heart failure or other heart issues tend to face a lifetime of medication to prevent infection, as their blood is constantly running against an unnatural material.
Now, this researchers team is working on key design modifications that can bring this system closer to use in humans, such as portability and miniaturization of the components.
They also need to do longer tests in animals to see how the system impact of the heart over prolonged periods of time.
One notable disadvantage with this soft robotic pump. It requires open-heart surgery, whereas the current tiny implants don’t. These devices are inserted via a small opening in the groin or chest. Into which a catheter is inserted, then skillfully maneuvered through the blood vessels into the heart left ventricle.
Although the tiny implantable device is miniaturized in size, are still not small enough to fit into a child’s blood vessel nor their hearts left ventricle. Scientists are engaged in designing modifications that will hopefully reduce their size. Enabling tiny minuscule devices that can be inserted into a child’s left ventricle via blood vessels.
The problem when trying to further reduce this tiny device size, and still being able to raise the blood pressure enough to open a child’s aortic valve. This valve opens to allow blood to circulate around the body.
Assists children with heart conditions
Scientists have designed a soft robotic system with artificial muscles that can assist cardiac function in children who have one-sided heart conditions.
Soft robotic actuators, designed to perform lifelike motions, are an attractive alternative to more rigid components conventionally used in biomedical devices.
Earlier this year, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital in the US had developed a proof-of-concept soft robotic sleeve that supports the function of a failing heart. However, researchers recognized that many pediatric heart patients have more one-sided heart conditions.
These patients are not experiencing failure of the entire heart — instead. Congenital conditions have caused disease in either the heart’s right or left ventricle, but not both.
Research set out to develop technology that would help one diseased ventricle, when the patient is in isolated left or right heart failure, pull blood into the chamber and then effectively pump it into the circulatory system.
Using external actuators to help squeeze blood through the heart’s own chamber, researchers designed a system that could theoretically work with the minimal use of anticoagulants. The research team combined rigid bracing with soft robotic actuators to help a diseased heart chamber pump blood effectively.
WHO Key facts
CVDs are the number 1 cause of death globally: More people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
An estimated 17.7 million people died from CVDs in 2015, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke.
Over three-quarters of CVD death takes place in low- and middle-income countries.
Out of the 17 million premature deaths (under the age of 70) due to noncommunicable diseases in 2015, 82% are in low- and middle-income countries, and 37% are caused by CVDs.
Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioral risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol using population-wide strategies.
People with cardiovascular disease or who are at high cardiovascular risk (due to the presence of one or more risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia or already established disease) need early detection and management using counseling and medicines, as appropriate.
Acknowledgments & References
Key facts are proved by the World Health Origination. Dr. Nikolay Vasilyev, a researcher in cardiac surgery at Boston Children’s. Boston Children’s Hospital in the US had developed a proof-of-concept soft robotic sleeve that supports the function of a failing heart.