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Soft Robotic Heart Sleeve

A Soft Robotic Heart Sleeve is a device that twists and compresses in time with the heartbeat, enhancing cardiovascular functions that have been impaired by heart failure.

Soft Robotic Heart Sleeve
Soft Robotic Heart Sleeve

Globally, 41 million people suffer from Heart Failure. Mechanical pumps known as Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs) that pump blood from the ventricles to the aorta and heart transplant are two of the current treatment options; while VADs are improving, patients are still at high risk for blood clots and stroke (brain attack).

Harvard researchers drew inspiration from the heart to build a completely new gadget that does not come into touch with blood. Soft pneumatic actuators put around the heart replicate the outer muscle layers of the human heart in the thin silicon sleeve. In a comparable motion to the beating heart, the actuators twist and compress the sleeve.

Working of Robotic Heart Sleeve:

This device is constructed of silicone, which contracts when exposed to air and expands when exposed to vacuum.

It is made to fit over the heart like a sleeve. The device swells and shrinks both circumferentially and helically, similar to the outermost layers of the human heart, which are made up of two layers of heart muscle that contract in opposite directions.

One pair of actuators expands and contracts concentrically, like rings on a barrel.

A separate layer of silicone contains a second set of actuators that expand and compress helically.

These two type of contraindications and expansions act together to pump blood through the mammalian heart.

A suction device, sutures, and a gel interface are used to adhere the sleeve to the heart, reducing friction between the device and the heart.

Figure: 2 The Layers of Soft Silicon Sleeve
Figure: 2 The Layers of Soft Silicon Sleeve


A soft robotic sleeve sits outside the heart. It is a 1.5 mm thick silicone sleeve.

The sleeve contracts as air is injected into the artificial muscles, which are arranged in bands, simulating the contraction of a heart.

Anti-clotting medications are not required because the device does not come into contact with blood like a traditional mechanical heart does.


Clot buster ( does not require blood thinners)

Improving cardiac function.


On Pigs with Drug-Induced Heart Failure:

The device restored cardiac output to an average of roughly 97% of pre-failure levels in pigs with drug-induced heart failure, which lowered cardiac output to about 45% of baseline.

This device was tested on 6 pigs, which has cardiac arrest and was successful in getting all of their failed hearts to start pumping again.

Although this research is still in its early phases, it has a potential to keep human heart pumping in future.

Figure 3: Clinical Trials on Pigs
Figure 3: Clinical Trials on Pigs


The novel ROBOTIC HEART SLEEVE could be used to help bridge the gap until a donor heart become available, or as a VAD during Heart Rehabilitation.


  • E. T. Roche, R. Wohlfarth, J. T. B. Overvelde, N.V. Vasilyev, F. A. Pigula, D. J. Mooney, K.Bertoldi, C.J.Walsh, A bioinspired soft actuated material. Adv. Mater. 26, 1200-1206(2014).

  • P. Polygerinous, Z. Wang, K. C. Galloway, R.J. Wood, C.J. Walsh, Soft robotic glove for combined assistance and at-home rehabilitation. Rob. Auton. Syst. 73, 135-143(2016).

  • R. Deimel, O. Brock, A novel type of compliant and underactuated robotic hand for dexterous grasping. Int. J. Rob. Res.35, 161-185.


  • Figure 1: Ellen Roche/ Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences January 18, 2017

  • Figure 2: Scientific work published January 18, 2017 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

  • Figure 3: Science Translational Medicine 18 January 2017 (Vol 9, Issue 373)


  • Sarasisruha Bijja (Pharm.D 5th year) E-mail:

  • Kiranmai Devaganugula (Pharm.D 5thyear) E-mail:

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