Right now, the only artificial hearts approved by the FDA are rigid and connected to external pumps that mimic the biological heart. However, researchers from Cornell University have invented an artificial heart, made of foam, able to pump fluid at a higher rate than any other soft artificial hearts.
Made of flexible silicone, the foam heart is porous and draws its design inspiration from soft robotics and artificial muscles. The porous design lets air flow through it, and it actually “beats” because it’s not made of rigid material. This might allow a much simpler artificial heart design than previous models. It functions with an external pump made of metals that are unreactive in the body, which moves air and fluid through the artificial heart. So it doesn’t leak, there’s a thin plastic layer around the foam.
It’s not ready to be put human yet; the foam heart only has two chambers and hasn’t been tested for foam property changes at the typical body temperature. Further, even though it pumps more effectively than other soft artificial hearts, its speed is limited and the foam may tear if the heart overinflates. Researchers hope to alter the foam recipe so it’s both less likely to tear and air pathways become simpler for quicker inflation.