Alternative Systems

This track of Zurich Heart aims at disruptive innovations and technologies to facilitate radically new artificial heart designs and assist device technologies.

Five focus points have been defined: Development of hybrid membranes, soft pumps, tissue-engineered heard valves and interfaces, fontan assist, and  computer models for optimization of pump design. 


Hyperelastic Hybrid Membrane for Biomimetic Blood Propulsion

Endothelial Cells

Prof. Edoardo Mazza (ETH), Prof. Paolo Ermanni (ETH), Prof. Stephen J. Ferguson (ETH), Prof. Simon P. Hoerstrup (UZH), Dr. Katharina Maniura (Empa), Prof. Mirko Meboldt (ETH), Prof. Dimos Poulikakos (ETH), Dr. René Rossi (Empa), Prof. Viola Vogel (ETH), Prof. Karin Würtz (ETH)

The aim is to generate a highly deformable hybrid membrane consisting of a synthetic substrate covered by an endothelial cell layer. This bio-composite material system will integrate a living biological layer into a mechanical device. It could form the basis of a 100% haemocompatible blood pump. For this application, the hybrid membrane is required to resist cyclic deformation and shear stresses from blood flow. Ensuring long-term integrity and functionality of the endothelium attached to the highly deformable substrate exposed to flow represents the major challenge of the new system. Several approaches are explored ranging from multi-layer tissue engineered constructs, to electro-spun scaffolds, to topography optimization and cell binding protein inclusions. The design of the pump is optimized in order to minimize mechanical loading of the hybrid membrane.

Hybrid membrane


Soft Artificial Heart

Soft Pumps

Prof. Wendelin Stark (ETH)

We investigate the development and use of soft robotic pumps for heart transplantation. Our goal is to develop a soft Total Artificial Heart (sTAH) which imitates the heart in its geometry and pumping mechanism. Through this we hope to address the critical shortcomings associated with the long-term performance of current mechanical circulatory support devices.

In our previous research, we have demonstrated the utility of scalable manufacturing processes to produce sTAH. The third generation of sTAHs were produced from silicone and rubber by injection moulding. Improved pumping performance and durability was measured.

In the next stages of the project, we will modify the design to improve durability and implantability of the sTAH. In addition, we aim to mimic the more complex functionalities of the native heart, for example, the Frank-Starling mechanism. Finally, we are in the process of investigating fully implantable driving solutions.

Tissue-Engineered Hybrid Heart Valves and Interfaces

Prof. Simon P Hoerstrup (UZH)

Tissue engineering technologies with human cells aim at the in vitro creation of novel living heart valves with repair and regeneration capacity. Such living valves will be designed to approximate native heart valves as to biomechanical performance and physiological surfaces.

To improve the integration of heart assist devices into the host organism, tissue engineering technologies will be used to create more physiological device-to-tissue interfaces at the level of vascular connection (engineered vascular grafts) and device to body cavity interface (engineered pericardium). Novel in situ tissue-engineered methodologies using endogenous cellular repopulation strategies will be a particular focus.