Heart failure affects over half a million people in the UK alone, and it gets worse over time. The heart becomes unable to pump blood around the body properly, usually as a result of the cardiac muscle being damaged from a heart attack, for example. There are not enough hearts available for this number of transplants and so there are treatments in place. They are mechanical devices that are implanted directly into the heart tissue; they aid with pumping blood around the body. However, the body can react to these devices creating a risk of dangerous blood clots. Therefore, scientists have been trying to come up with something else to treat heart failure with fewer risks.
Recently, a new device has been developed that helps the heart pump blood when it is deteriorating. It is made of silicon, a similar material to the heart muscle; it stiffens and relaxes when inflated with air. Instead of being implanted into the heart tissue, this device is fitted around the heart so it ‘hugs’ the heart instead, meaning that the body is much less likely to have a reaction to it. It squeezes the outside of the heart, just like the cardiac muscle to aid the pumping of the heart.
It was fitted around six pig hearts and the device was able to be synchronised with the shapes and movements of the heart. It was seen to boost the amount of blood being pumped around the body; when the heart stopped beating, the robotic sleeve helped to restore blood flow.
Though promising, many more animal trials must be done before this device is tested on any humans. There is nothing so far, to suggest that this device won’t be used to help thousands of people in the upcoming years with heart failure.