I Heart Robot

The robots are coming… after my heart?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

To fix a leaky heart valve, surgeons drive a snake-like robot through your heart to get to the leak, kind of like a roto-rooter. But arteries aren’t exactly smooth drives in the countryside. Is there any way to make this task easier?

Meet Pierre Dupont from Harvard Medical School and his international team. They’ve developed a self-driving heart-bot!

How? By taking a hint from insects! Mealybugs navigate by building mental maps of their environment using touch. Similarly, this robot FEELS its way around to find leaky heart valves.

The researchers tested their self-driving robot in pig hearts. They also compared it to a traditional doctor driven robot. Turns out, self-driving robots can navigate arteries almost as well as trained surgeons!

While the robot feels around for the trouble spot, busy doctors can take a well earned break. Then, once the bot locates the leak, a human surgeon goes in for the repair. Robots doing half the work could lead to better outcomes for patients!

In short, this robot won’t break your heart anytime soon. But it just might be able to help repair it!