Soft robotic heart research gets 11 million

A soft implantable robotic heart for people with severe heart failure. To develop it further, the Holland Hybrid Heart consortium has received 10 million euros from the National Science Agenda. The soft robotic heart can be placed in the chest of patients with severe heart failure and takes over the function of the real heart.

The Holland Hybrid Heart (HHH) consortium brings together universities, higher professional education, companies and patient organisations. Cardiothoracic surgeon Jolanda Kluin of the Erasmus MC Thorax Centre leads the collaboration. Kluin: 'We want to offer patients a good and viable alternative to transplantation with a natural heart.'

'We want to offer patients a good and viable alternative to transplantation with a natural heart.'

Worldwide, there are more than 23 million people with heart failure, for whom the best treatment is getting a donor heart. There is a severe shortage of these. In the Netherlands, there are 250,000 heart failure patients, half of whom die within five years

Octopus or starfish

Jolanda Kluin got the idea of a soft robot heart when she saw the work of engineer Bas Overvelde (scientific group leader at AMOLF and TU/e) in the media. He works with robots made of soft and flexible materials that can respond themselves to changes in their environment. Think, for example, of a robot that resembles an octopus or a starfish. Kluin: 'When I saw such a soft-robot moving octopus, I thought: surely we should be able to make a heart with this too!' 'This kind of artificial muscle, made of soft materials, is ideal for building an artificial heart that mimics the functioning of a natural heart,' Bas says. Because the inner lining of the Hybrid Heart is made of cells from the patient himself, it starts to look even more like a real heart.

10 years

The team is using the money to take another step in the development of the soft robotic heart. The heart could then be used as an alternative to heart transplants within 10 years.

Holland Hybrid Heart is partly made possible by the Heart Foundation with a grant of 700,000 euros. In addition, several organisations/companies are jointly providing 700,000 euros worth of services: SBMC, TrailBlazers, evos GmbH, DCVA and EE Labels.


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