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A new robotic heart beats like a real one

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Research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a robotic heart that beats as if it were a real organ, mimicking its functions, movement and structure.

The invention could revolutionize the medical sector by allowing real-time study and testing, as well as serving as a simulator in the training of specialists.

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Robotic heart

The robotic heart is actually a biorobot. This is because it is the real organ of a pig, but it had a muscle on the left side that was replaced by a mechanical pump made of silicone.

This pump is powered by air, and when inflated it compresses the heart as if it were a real muscle, pumping artificial blood through the simulated circulatory system and imitating the pulsing motion of a real organ.

Videos demonstrating how the robotic heart works can be viewed directly in the original search on the site cell. Hey IFLScience I posted some of them on YouTube. Watch the demo:

Real heart problem

The study highlights that before any medical or surgical intervention, the procedures undergo rigorous testing. However, current cardiac simulators do not support the complexity of the experiments, and when they do the job, they only last a short time, two to four hours.

The alternative is to conduct experiments on animals, but these are usually expensive and time-consuming – not to mention that the results cannot always be drawn in human hearts.

The biocardiogram can serve as a simulator. The innovation allows various interventions to be performed on the organ's valves and can serve as a training platform for doctors, surgeons, medical students and trainees, says Ellen Roche, a biomedical engineer and author of the study on the invention. Furthermore, it can help engineers design new devices and allow patients to better understand how their disease works.

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Illustration of automated heart tests (Image: Reproduction/MIT)

How was the automated heart tested?

To test the robotic heart, the researchers focused on mitral regurgitation, a disorder in which the valve between the left heart chambers does not close properly. This causes blood to flow backwards and can cause everything from shortness of breath to swelling of the extremities and heart failure.

There is actually a surgical procedure to correct this, but it is complicated and risky. The team then created the bio-core and proposed the solution:

  • They damaged the mitral valve to function as it does in the desired state of turbulence;
  • The team repaired the damage in three different ways: repairing the valve problem with artificial sutures, replacing the damaged valve with an artificial valve, and implanting a device to help close the valve;
  • All three procedures were successful and returned pressure, flow, and heart function to normal.

The advantage is that in addition to testing different methods without risk to a real patient, they were able to understand how the heart reacts to interventions as well as collect results in real time.

Realistic depiction of a person's heart and blood circulation
(Photo: Reproduction/American Academy of Healthcare)

What comes now?

According to the EurekalertWith the success of the robotic heart, researchers want to improve the device to shorten its production time and extend its useful life. Currently, the expiry time is a few months. They also want to test robotic hearts using 3D printing, rather than using pig organs.

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