Soft robotic actuators have recently emerged as an attractive alternative to more rigid components that have conventionally been used in biomedical devices. However, researchers recognized that many pediatric heart patients have more one-sided congenital heart conditions.

Sectional view of a heart with the soft robotic system.
(Credit: Boston Children’s Hospital)

Researchers have developed a soft robotic solution. The rigid brace component is deployed via a needle into the heart’s intraventricular septum, the wall of tissue between the heart’s chambers, to prevent the septum from shifting under the pressure of the artificial “muscle” of the soft actuator. In contrast, existing ventricular assist devices (VAD) don’t involve the septum at all.

Altogether, the system involves a septal anchor, a bracing bar and sealing sleeve that pass through the ventricle wall, and a frame embedded with soft actuators that is mounted around the ventricle. The researchers designed two distinct versions of the system for the right and left ventricle. The researchers are working on key design modifications, such as portability and miniaturization of the components, that can bring this system closer to use in humans.