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Medicine Robotics Hardware Science Technology

Robotic Sleeve Mimics Muscles To Keep a Heart Beating (seeker.com) 41

randomErr writes: 5.7 million adults in the United States have heart failure each year with about 41 million worldwide. Currently, treatment involves surgically implanting a mechanical pump, called a ventricular assist device (VAD), into the heart. The VAD helps maintains the heart's function. But patients with VADs are at high risk for getting blood clots and having a stroke. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital have created a soft robotic sleeve that doesn't have to be implanted. The robotic sleeve slips around the outside of the heart, squeezing it in sync with the natural rhythm. "This work represents an exciting proof of concept result for this soft robot, demonstrating that it can safely interact with soft tissue and lead to improvements in cardiac function," Conor Walsh, said in a press statement. Seeker reports: "The sleeve they developed is made from thin silicone and attaches to the outside of the heart with a combination of suction devices and sutures. It relies on soft, air-powered actuators that twist and compress in a way that's similar to the outer layer of muscle of a human heart. A gel coating reduces any friction between the sleeve and the organ. Because the sleeve is soft and flexible, it can be customized to fit not just the size and shape of individual hearts, but augment the organ's weaknesses. For example, if a patient's heart is weaker on the left side than the right, the sleeve can be tuned to squeeze with more authority on the left side. As the organ gains strength, the device can be adjusted." The study has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
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Robotic Sleeve Mimics Muscles To Keep a Heart Beating

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  • Which is it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2017 @10:28PM (#53693567)

    Doesn't need to be implanted.
    Slips around the heart.
    So it's an implant.

    • SchrÃdinger's device.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      No idea where TFA got the idea it isn't an implant. It IS a less invasive implant since it doesn't come in to contact with circulating blood and so doesn't require blood thinners and run the risk of clotting, but it's certainly an implant.

    • Doesn't need to be implanted. Slips around the heart. So it's an implant.

      Yeah, it's confusing. I think they mean they don't have to cut into the heart as they do with a VAD. [wikipedia.org] So while it's implanted in the body. It's not implanted in the heart.

  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2017 @10:30PM (#53693579)

    It's not often we get something so transformational in medicine. This device, and its future iterations could ultimately proove to eliminate death by heart disease. People will get this implanted at their 55th birthday check up. A leading cause of death eliminated and single handedly increase life expectancy by 15 years.

    • Not only do things like this take batteries, but the human body is a surprisingly well evolved "machine". If you got one of these merely as a preventative measure the odds are likely great that the device would break before the heart it was supposed to assist did.

      Granted, for people already having trouble I'm sure it'll be great, but I don't see it as being some routine precautionary thing.

  • *clears throat*
    (Farnsworth)Good news, everyone!(/Farnsworth)

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwockNO@SPAMpoetic.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2017 @11:35PM (#53693809)

    "5.7 million adults in the United States have heart failure each year "

    You'd think these people would be proactive so that they don't have yet another heart failure next year. But let's question another statement in TFS:

    "As the organ gains strength, the device can be adjusted." I've learned, and seen from my own experience, that tissues can atrophy if not fully exercised. Muscles and even tree trunks gain strength by flexing, applying and/or resisting force. Dependence on this 'sleeve' seems counterproductive to gaining strength.

    Let's have more study in THIS area: "Researchers in the US and China have developed a durable 'synthetic stem cell' that can repair tissue damaged by a heart attack." - in the news this month from http://www.bionews.org.uk/page... [bionews.org.uk] and elsewhere.

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2017 @11:40PM (#53693851) Homepage Journal

      While use it or lose it is very real in biological systems, that applies to healthy muscle. In the case of heart failure, sometimes a period of rest and recovery is necessary. When the LVAD was first put into use, it was thought it would be just a bridge to transplant or at best a permanent implant. However, surprising to everyone, some patient's natural heart recovered once given a bit of a rest to the point that the device could be explanted with no need for a transplant.

    • One thing that makes me cringe is the gel that's supposed to reduce friction between the device and the heart. If that managed to dry up, I can't imagine what that'd feel like.. or at least, I don't want to.

  • The thing with heart surgery is that it requires opening the thoracic cavity which is usually quite traumatic. I've lost family members to known correctable heart conditions simply because they were too old and frail to endure heart surgery. If you have any sort of heart issue that can be corrected surgically get it taken care of while you are still young enough to make a full recovery. Perhaps some enterprising surgeon will figure out a technique to implant these devices as a laparoscopic procedure but I w
  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday January 19, 2017 @06:34AM (#53695003)

    All I'm asking is for this fantastic advancement in medical technology to be delayed for about 10 years. No offence grampas of the world but you've made a mess of things and we're kinda counting on you all kicking the bucket as soon as possible so we can fix it. If there is any regulatory agency out there that could keep this back for a while using it's red tape, that would be fantastic. Sorry gramps, you haven't earned it. ;)

    • by javilon ( 99157 )

      Do you realize you are talking about persons, right?

      By your logic, if you make a mistake, we should stop giving you medical procedures?

  • Soft rubbery thing that contracts regularly that you can slip over a muscle. Or a "muscle"?

  • For example, if a patient's heart is weaker on the left side than the right, the sleeve can be tuned to squeeze with more authority on the left side. As the organ gains strength, the device can be adjusted."

    The device should assist the stronger side, making the weak side work harder so it get's stronger. Much like doctors cover the strong eye to treat amblyopia.

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