Researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a soft robotic sleeve, which may be the future of treatment for heart failure. The device is a silicone sleeve that fits around the heart, binds to it and helps it beat.
As with most scientific advancements, it seems pretty creepy at first, but it actually represents a huge breakthrough in how we might treat those with failing tickers.
Today, when the heart fails to do its lub-dub duty, doctors resort to transplants or mechanical pumps to keep the blood flowing, often paired with a prescription of potentially dangerous blood thinners. The advantage of this “soft robot” tech is that, unlike other existing treatments for heart failure, it doesn’t come into contact with the blood, and therefore doesn’t increase risk of infection or clotting.
Instead, the soft sleeve envelops the heart, connected by suction (along with a gel medium to help reduce friction between it and the heart), which twists and compresses to the beat of a pacemaker, mimicking the heart’s natural beating. The technology isn’t yet at the point where we can start slapping it around human hearts, but it does look promising.
In fact, scientists have run a few successful trials on pigs, using the soft sheathes to improve heart function from 47 per cent to 97 per cent. It’s a promising development for those fighting heart failure.
Let’s just hope this particular device continues to pump along good research.