Soft robot that squeezes your heart keeps damaged organs pumping

Putting a squishy robot around the diseased chamber of a heart helps it pump while you wait for a new one – and could even rehabilitate it so you don’t need one

IT’S a pump that could bring your heart back to life. A lack of donated hearts often means people with heart failure die waiting for a replacement. But now a robotic device has been designed to help out with pumping duties to keep diseased hearts beating for longer. Nikolay Vasilyev at Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the creators of the device, hopes it may even allow a full heart recovery, rendering a transplant unnecessary.

The device consists of an implanted semi-circular brace that hugs the diseased chamber, surrounding it with an inflatable sleeve. To keep it in place, it is anchored to the interventricular septum – a sturdy wall that separates the heart’s two main chambers. When the sleeve inflates, it squeezes the diseased chamber to give it an extra boost while it pumps (Science Robotics, DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aan6736).

Other devices tend to bypass the damaged heart,

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