In recent years, due to the advancement of various technologies and the lower production price of the same, the science of prostheses has evolved in stride. Research, with respect to robotic members, has been one of the examples of this technological leap.
The same techniques that make a robotic, flexible arm almost as if it were a real member can also enter the production area of a heart that behaves like a real one, as the Swiss researchers have shown (video link), even though these much more sensitive and rigorous organs.
Materials have evolved, manufacturing techniques are also clearer, but one of the problems with artificial hearts is that metal and plastic mechanisms may be difficult to integrate with tissues, or may even damage the blood because of its movement style unnatural.
A small ETH team, led by PhD student Nicholas Cohrs, has created what they say is the first artificial heart that is totally soft, with the pumping mechanism achieved by causing the silicone ventricles to be triggered, such as a heart real.
Well, it’s not exactly like a real heart – between the ventricles there is not only one wall but a chamber that fills and empties to create the pumping action. But it is close to that which offers a real heart to the human being.
The heart was created using a 3D printing method, which allowed researchers to develop a complex internal structure, using even soft and flexible materials to form the entire structure of the heart.
Basically everything is part of a piece (a “monoblock”), so this way of producing does not create the need of concern to verify if the different parts or parts have an appropriate behavior, because everything has the same behavior through the mechanism created Internally, everything fits – except at the entrance and exit doors, where blood will come in and out, as we can see in the picture above.
Works well but …
In tests, the heart worked quite well, pumping a blood-like fluid as opposed to body-like pressures. There is, of course, a “counter”.
This heart is a proof of concept, not built for real deployment. In this way, the materials that are part of this model do not last more than a few thousand beats. This is about half an hour, depending on your heart rate (and if you are entering a new stage with a new artificial heart, the frequency is probably quite high).
In the future, the plan, of course, is to have materials and designs that work for a lot longer than these simple beats. At least there is already a proof of concept, a model that works.
Anastasios Petrou, the doctoral student who led the study, said in a press release from ETH Zurich: “As a mechanical engineer, he would never have thought he would have a soft heart in his hands. I am so fascinated by this research that I would very much like to continue working on the development of artificial hearts.”
All the work was published last week in the journal Artificial Organs.
This is undoubtedly a small step for science but a great step for humanity. Soon we will have hearts, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, retinas and many other artificial organs that can improve the lives of millions of people.