SOME heart surgeries are among the most complicated in the world but a team of scientists looks set to save lives with a recent experiment.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created 3D-printed human heart replicas.
The replicas are so precise they look and pump just like a patient’s heart.
The hearts act like soft robots and their movements aim to help surgeons make life-saving decisions about how best to operate on a human heart.
Luca Rosalia, a graduate student at MIT, said: “All hearts are different.
“There are massive variations, especially when patients are sick.
“The advantage of our system is that we can recreate not just the form of a patient’s heart, but also its function in both physiology and disease.”
Doctors could use the hearts to tailor treatments to patients.
This is because the soft robots display how the patient’s heart pumps and any differences in valve size, without a surgeon needing to do an invasive procedure.
The heart replicas are made by taking medical images and converting these into a 3D heart model.
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The researchers then 3D-print this model using a special type of polymer ink.
This produces a soft and flexible physical model of a patient’s heart.
Scientists can then control it with a sleeve they wrap around the heart.
The sleeve connects to an air pressure system that makes the heart move just like the patient’s real heart does.
The MIT team hopes doctors could use their device to decide on things like the best type of synthetic valve to insert into a patient.
The researchers have published their findings in the journal Science Robotics.