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ETH Zurich researchers develop soft artificial heart

MDBR Staff Writer Published 17 July 2017

Researchers from ETH Zurich have developed a silicone heart, which beats similar to the human heart.

The silicone heart was developed by Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student in the group headed by ETH Zurich Functional Materials Engineering professor Wendelin Stark.

Developed in collaboration with colleagues from the Product Development Group Zurich, the soft artificial heart has been developed from silicone by using a 3D-printing and lost-wax casting technique.

Cohrs said: “Therefore, our goal is to develop an artificial heart that is roughly the same size as the patient’s own one and which imitates the human heart as closely as possible in form and function.”

With around 390g weight and 679cm3 volume, the artificial heart features right and left ventricle similar to the real human heart.

The ventricles are not separated by a septum but by an additional chamber, which is in and deflated by pressurized air.

The chamber will enable to pump fluid from the blood chambers, helping to replace the muscle contraction of the human heart.

Artificial blood pumps enable to bridge the waiting time until a patient receives a donor heart or their own heart recovers.

ETH Zurich said the current soft artificial heart lasts for about only 3,000 beats, which corresponds to a lifetime of half to three quarters of an hour.

The material can no longer withstand the strain, after that period of time.

Cohrs further added: “This was simply a feasibility test. Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts.”

According to ETH Zurich, around 26 million people across the globe suffer from heart failure while there is a shortage of donor hearts.


Image: The artificial heart imitates a human heart as closely as possible. Photo: courtesy of Zurich Heart.