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Jan 19, 2017 08:28 AM EST

Harvard Medical School's Robotic Sleeve Aids Flabby Heart

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A medical team from Harvard University and the Boston's Children Hospital has made another medical breakthrough in cardiovascular medicine by encasing a sick, flabby heart with a robotic sleeve to keep it beating.

Conor Walsh, Harvard associate engineering professor and author of the research about the use of the robotic sleeve said that it works differently than the traditional ventricular assist devices or VADs.

Unlike VADs which pumps blood through the machinery but puts patients at risk of blood clots, bleeding and stroke, the robotic sleeve can be customized to meet the specific needs of each heart; thus, eliminating the previously mentioned risks.

Compared to the traditional VADs that are rigid, these robotic sleeves are designed to fit snugly in the irregular surface of the heart. It has artificial muscles and is powered by pressurized air that can be carried in a backpack.

The scientists also programmed the robotic sleeve to move in the same pattern as the heart muscles where it's placed. As it moves, it also strengthens the heartbeat but most of all, it helps the weak heart expand better and be refilled with blood that will be pumped with the next heartbeat.

So far, the team has tested the robotic sleeve to six pigs that have been put in heart failure. After the pigs were fitted with the robotic sleeve, the blood flow normalized. However, the experiment only lasted a few hours; thus, further research is needed to test how long can this robotic sleeves be effective inside the animals to ensure that they live safely and normally.

If the research will become successful, it will greatly impact those who are suffering from cardiovascular diseases. At present, the Center for DiseaseControl and Prevention said that more than 600,000 Americans die of heart failure every year while 735,000 have a heart attack.

The research is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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