HST faculty member Ellen Roche featured in "Understanding and Treating Disease"

photo: John Reidah
story by: Mary Beth O'Leary 

Excerpt, read full story here

Treating Disease

Armed with more knowledge of how diseases grow and spread, researchers are better able to develop new ways to treat, and in some cases cure, disease. Among them is Assistant Professor Ellen Roche, who is taking a unique dual approach to treating heart disease using both mechanical and biological therapies.

“The idea is to mechanically assist the heart,” says Roche, who also serves as Helmholtz Career Development Professor at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. “Rather than take over its function we just assist and augment it using a biomimetic approach.”

Roche uses new techniques like soft robotics to develop devices that mimic both the tissue properties and the motion of the heart. One such device is a sleeve that wraps around the heart to assist with pumping. Soft robots like this sleeve use elastomeric materials and fluidic actuation to mimic an organ’s movement. “By smartly designing simple fluidics channels and reinforcing soft materials in just the right way, you can achieve very complex motion with just elastomeric changes, and pressurized air or water,” says Roche.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018