3D-printed silicone heart beats like the real thing

Researchers 3D print a soft artificial heart that works a lot like a real one

A well-functioning artificial heart is a real necessity: about 26 million people worldwide suffer from heart failure while there is a shortage of donor hearts. What's needed in the interim is a device that more closely resembles the real thing, and that's exactly what a research team led by Nicholas Cohrs from ETH Zurich has done.

Even so, the device does suggest that it might be possible to create better artificial hearts in the coming years.

The silicone artificial heart is part of the Medicine department's Zurich Heart Project which brings together 20 research groups from Zurich and Berlin. Created using 3D-printing techniques, the artificial organ is designed to have left and right ventricles, and to pump blood without the need of complex inner mechanisms.

It looks like a real heart.

As possible alternative, a team at ETH Zurich's has not only printed a heart from silicon, this artificial heart beats much like a human organ.

Artificial hearts and other devices created to keep blood flowing typically take the place of damaged heart, while the patient awaits a donor organ or for their own heart to recover.

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"This was simply a feasibility test", said Cohrs. Instead, an additional chamber is used, which is inflated and deflated by pressurized air.

Anastasios Petrou, a doctoral student of the Product Development Group Zurich, led by Professor Mirko Meboldt evaluated the performance of this soft artificial heart.

This is definitely a solid approach, and it could inspire the development of other artificial organs as well.

Unfortunately, the device only lasts for about 3,000 beats, which for an average person represents about 45 to 60 minutes of functionality. After that, the material can no longer withstand the strain. Of course, the tensile strength of the material and the performance would have to be enhanced significantly. Photo via Zurich Heart. Doctoral students of Product Development Group Zurich, who are working on new technologies for blood pumps, have developed a testing environment with which they can simulate the human cardiovascular system. Swiss researchers at ETH Zurich want to make heart transplants a lot easier and safer.

So scientists are continually looking for ways to develop new solutions and improve existing pumps, something that includes searching for more biocompatible materials to use, such as malleable foams.

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