Newsworthy: a novel, implantable robotic sleeve that can support a patient’s failing heart.

Harvard University engineers developed a soft, implantable robotic sleeve that can support heart function for patients suffering from heart failure. The sleeve-shaped robot—designed by Ellen Roche from Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and her team—mimics the form and function of a mammalian heart and can be implanted around a failing heart to offer mechanical support. For decades, heart pumps have been used to aid individuals with weakened heart function: the device takes blood from the heart and pumps it to the rest of the body, as a healthy heart would. Patients with implanted heart pumps, however, have been required to take long-term blood-thinning medications to reduce the risk of blood clotting and other complications, due to contact between blood and device surfaces. The advantage of Roche’s team’s design, hence, is that the robotic sleeve does not contact blood, eliminating the need for anti-blood-clotting therapy and reducing the risk of device-associated complications. Also preceding previous efforts in the field, the robotic sleeve, which mimics the outer two layers of the mammalian heart muscle, is able to provide coherent and synchronized assistance to a failing heart. The team tested their robotic design on pig models with acute heart failure, and the assessments have shown promising results. Although further testing for long-term practicality is still indispensible, this robotic sleeve could potentially provide a new approach to help restore people’s compromised heart function in the near future.

Learn more:

“Soft robotic sleeve supports heart function” – Science Translational Medicine  


“Are blood clots in patients with heart-assist pumps decreasing or on the rise in 2015?” – Science Daily

“Soft robot helps the heart beat” – The Harvard Gazette