Researchers at Harvard University have developed a novel treatment for heart failure. The new treatment is a robotic silicone sleeve that mimics heart function. Current treatments such as heart transplantations have inadequate efficacy. Donors are in short supply, meaning many patients die awaiting transplantation or die after receiving a transplant because of rejection of the implanted heart. With over half a million people in the UK with this conduction and 40 million worldwide this technology could drastically reduce deaths.
“robotic sleeve inspired by the heart’s natural mechanism”
Traditional implantable devices aimed at restoring normal heart function have little relation to the actually hear and can’t synchronise with the hearts normal rhythm. The direct contact between the current devices and blood causes obstructions to the flow of blood causing events such as stroke in up to 20% of patients. The Harvard researchers aimed to combat these common issues by designing a robotic sleeve inspired by the heart’s natural mechanism.
“The sleeve … “hugs” the heart, eliminating clot risks”
In the heart, multiple fibres simultaneously undergo twisting and compressing motions to force blood around the body. Previous devices did not synchronise with this activity but the thin silicone sleeve stiffens and relaxes with pressurised airflow to restore circulatory function. The sleeve has no contact with blood and instead “hugs” the heart, eliminating clot risks.
The device was successful in pig models of acute heart failure. The sleeve helped to increase the amount of blood being pumped around the body and restored blood flow in the event of heart failure. It is hoped the innovative technique could be used to provide relief of symptoms to patients with acute heart failure.
Though an exciting novel procedure, the researchers acknowledge that the sleeve is still at an early stage and longer-term studies need to be performed before human tests could even be considered, but there is hope that robots could soon be hugging our hearts.