Keeping hearts pumping...

Researchers at the University of Leeds have developed a prototype cardiac compression assist device used to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts.

The assist device uses an artificial muscle to improve both systolic (contraction and pumping function) and diastolic (relaxation and filling function) phases of the cardiac cycle.

The mechanical compression force generated by the assist device is used to increase the ventricular pressure to improve the cardiac output. This takes the strain off the failing heart allowing the cardiac muscle time to rest and recover.

An advantage of using this method over conventional blood-pumping devices is that blood doesn’t come into contact with the assist device, which therefore reduces the chance of infection, hemolysis and thrombosis. 

In order to test and monitor the mechanical compression force a heart simulator with a beating heart was designed and developed. The heart simulator is reconfigurable and can be used for prolonged trials.

To inform undergraduate students about the assist device a scaled replica of a human heart has been produced using a multi-material 3D printer.

Dr Ali Alazmani, Research Fellow in the School of Mechanical Engineering, is keen to develop the device further and plans to use the University’s manufacturing facilities in the National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems