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Home >MIT engineers design bionic heart

MIT engineers design bionic heart

31 January 2020

Engineers at MIT and elsewhere have developed a bionic 'heart' which it is hoped will ultimately be used for testing out artificial valves and other cardiac devices. The device is a real biological heart, the tough muscle tissue of which has been replaced with a soft robotic matrix of artificial heart muscles, resembling bubble wrap.

The orientation of the artificial muscles mimics the pattern of the heart’s natural muscle fibers, in such a way that when the researchers remotely inflate the bubbles, they act together to squeeze and twist the inner heart, similar to the way a real, whole heart beats and pumps blood.

With this new design, which they call a 'biorobotic hybrid heart', the researchers envision that device designers and engineers could iterate and fine-tune designs more quickly by testing on the biohybrid heart, significantly reducing the cost of cardiac device development.

“Regulatory testing of cardiac devices requires many fatigue tests and animal tests,” says Ellen Roche, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “The new device could realistically represent what happens in a real heart, to reduce the amount of animal testing or iterate the design more quickly.”

Roche and her colleagues have published their results in the journal Science Robotics. Her co-authors are lead author and MIT graduate student Clara Park, along with Yiling Fan, Gregor Hager, Hyunwoo Yuk, Manisha Singh, Allison Rojas, and Xuanhe Zhao at MIT, along with collaborators from Nanyang Technology University, the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Boston’s Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital.