The Harvard Biodesign Lab has developed a soft robot device that can be placed on a heart to assist damaged hearts.
While the next generation of robotics will feature machines similar to those popularised by Hollywood sci-fi, such as this Dubai-based robocop, advances in ‘soft robotics’ will yield near endless possible forms and designs — like a sleeve capable of powering failed hearts.
Heart failure can leave hearts damaged, limiting the ability to pump blood around the body. Researchers at Harvard Biodesign Lab have developed a silicone sleeve capable of augmenting the pumping action by contracting when and where needed. This soft robot surrounds the heart, attached by suction cups and sutures, and is powered by an external pneumatic pump, providing an alternative solution to existing ventricular assist devices that require anticoagulant treatment and infection risks because they contact blood. The research paper is available in the journal Science Translational Medicine, with the sleeves having proved successful in trials using pigs.
What other potential applications are there for soft robotics?