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Heart-hugging robot does the twist (and squeeze)

Mimicking action of a real heart pumps up blood flow in failing organ, pig study shows

By
2:00pm, January 18, 2017
robot heart

HEART HUGGER  A robotic sleeve wrapped around a pig’s heart (shown) can pump blood using inflatable tubes (grey) that compress the heart.

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A new squishy robot could keep hearts from skipping a beat.

A silicone sleeve slipped over pigs’ hearts helped pump blood when the hearts failed, researchers report January 18 in Science Translational Medicine. If the sleeve works in humans, it could potentially keep weak hearts pumping, and buy time for patients waiting for a transplant.

To make the device contract, biomedical engineer Ellen Roche and colleagues lined it with two sets of narrow tubes. One set encircles the sleeve, like bracelets; the other runs from top to bottom. When air pumps through the tubes, the sleeve compresses (like a clenched fist) and twists (like wrung-out laundry). Those actions mimic how the layers of the heart contract.

Researchers programmed the sleeve to sync with the heart’s motion. And like a healthy heart, the robot sleeve&rsquo

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