Researchers 3D print a soft artificial heart that works a lot like a real one

The science of prosthetics has been advancing by leaps and bounds during the last few years, and study into delicate robotics has been especially complementary. The very same methods that go into making a robot arm that flexes and turns as a true one can enter making more complicated, subtle organs such as the heart, as Swiss scientists have shown.

1 difficulty with artificial hearts is that plastic and metal mechanics can be difficult to integrate with tissue, or harm the blood due to their unnatural movement fashion.

A little team in ETH, led by doctoral student Nicholas Cohrs, has established what they say is the very first artificial heart thats completely soft, with its pumping mechanism accomplished by causing the silicone ventricles to pump the same as a true soul.

Well, not exactly like a true soul in-between the ventricles isnt only a wall but a chamber that fills and deflates to make the pumping activity. But its close.

The center was made using a 3D-printed method that lets the investigators make a complex internal structure while still using soft, elastic material because of its structure. The entire issue is essentially one single part (a monoblock), so theres no need to worry about how different inner mechanics fit together except in the input and output ports, where blood would go and come.

In tests the heart worked quite well, pushing a blood-like fluid together contrary to body-like pressures. There is, of course, a catch.

This hub is a proof of concept, not constructed for real implantation so the substances they created it from dont survive more than a few thousands beats. Thats about half an hour, depending on your heartbeat (and when youre breaking in a brand new one, its probably fairly high). But the strategy, of course, is to get designs and materials that work for more than that.

As a mechanical engineer, I’d not have believed I would ever hold a soft core in my hands, said Anastasios Petrou, the grad student who led the testing, at an ETH Zurich news release. Im currently so fascinated by this study that I would very much like to keep on working on the development of artificial hearts.

The investigators work is published this week in the journal Artificial Organs (naturally).

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