Show me:
Show me:
Q&A with Dr Thanh Nho Do
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Q&A with Dr Thanh Nho Do

Developing a new soft robotic heart device to help people with heart failure awaiting a heart transplant

Dr Thanh Nho Do is a Scientia Lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Dr Do received a 2020 Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant to design a soft skin-like robotic device that can help people with heart failure.  

What are you currently researching?

Heart failure is a condition where the heart muscle is not able to pump blood to the rest of the body the way it should. It is a serious chronic condition that needs lifelong management. If untreated, it can lead to serious illness. In 2017-2018, over 100,000 Australians were living with heart failure.  By 2030, it is estimated that heart failure will affect nearly 750,000 Australians, which could cost up to $3.8 billion in annual national healthcare costs.

Some people with end-stage heart failure might be referred for a heart transplant. However, the availability of donor hearts is limited, and sadly people can die while waiting for a heart transplant. Also, unfortunately not everyone is a candidate for a heart transplant. In 2020, there were only 148 heart transplants performed across Australia

For this research project, I will develop a new soft skin-like robotic device that can help people with end-stage heart failure. The new technology will wrap around the heart using soft artificial muscles. Then, using a miniature controller which can be implanted under a person’s skin, we can improve the heart’s pumping action. The device can automatically match up with a person’s natural heartbeat to improve the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body. The size of the robotic skin can also be adjusted for different heart sizes. This is exciting research because it could potentially give people waiting for a heart transplant more time and could help them feel better.

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia?

People currently waiting for a heart transplant may need to stay in hospital and sometimes need the support of a special type of life-support machine that replaces the normal action of the heart and lungs (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; ECMO). Unfortunately, this is often only suitable for a very small number of people. For other people on the heart transplant waiting list, a type of device called a ventricular assist device can help people to survive longer. A ventricular assist device is a type of artificial heart pump that can help people with heart failure. The device is inserted into the heart to help the heart pump blood around the body more efficiently. It’s connected to a control unit that the person must wear on the outside of their body all the time. The unit can be heavy and inconvenient.  

Through my research, the device I’m developing will hopefully offer a better treatment option for people with heart failure. By using lighter, more modern materials, our robotic device will be more convenient and comfortable for people. It will be less bulky and require less invasive surgery to insert it. The proposed device can also be mass produced at a relatively low cost. It may contribute to improving quality of life for people living with heart failure. This new technology could also mean improved heart failure care for people living in remote parts of Australia who may have limited access to healthcare.  

We are also working on the development of a totally artificial soft robotic heart. Our aim is to build this and use it as an innovative research and teaching tool for students and researchers. In the future, we could potentially even use the artificial heart instead of a donor heart in people with heart failure.  

What motivated you to do your research?

I am motivated to develop a new robotic device for heart failure to address some of the limitations with existing devices. For example, some current devices can’t adapt to the heart surface very well. They can also be bulky, can require a large skin incision to insert them, and can be noisy. They also aren’t always that efficient in improving the heart’s pumping ability. The device I’m developing and testing will be smaller, more comfortable, less expensive and potentially more effective at helping the heart to return to its normal pumping motion. It can hopefully give people more time and improved health while waiting for a heart transplant.  

What role has Heart Foundation funding had in your career journey?

Funding from the Heart Foundation will help advance my research career in robotics and mechatronics (a type of engineering involving mechanics and electronics). I envision that this device can improve the treatment options for people with heart failure. This support will significantly help me to achieve my research vision, which is to combine robotic, surgical and wearable devices to improve Australians’ quality of life.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters?

Funding from the Heart Foundation improves cardiovascular disease diagnosis and treatment through research. This research can improve the quality of life for people with a heart condition. It also puts Australia on the world map for research in smart technologies, the way in which hearts and computers can interact, and in the heart robotics field. I would like to give special thanks to the donors and supporters. Your support for Australian researchers helps us to achieve our research mission and vision.

You might also be interested in

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

The Heart Foundation Alumni Program

Stay connected with your research alumni community. ...

Research Directory

Research Directory

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

GLOBAL CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH FUNDERS FORUM

FACILITATING INTERNATIONAL CLINICAL TRIALS ...

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award

This funding is expected to produce tangible outcomes with the potential of creating high-impact change in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cardiovascular health research community. ...

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Heart Foundation Research Award Recipients

Explore our research award recipients and projects...

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Managing your funding

Resources to help manage your grant, scholarship or fellowship....

Collaboration and Exchange Award

Collaboration and Exchange Award

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW ...

E O Myers Trust Fund

E O Myers Trust Fund

The E O Myers Trust Fund provides grants to support medical education, advancing the knowledge and skill of cardiology health professionals in South Australia....

Together, we can change the future of heart disease

Together, we can change the future of heart disease

Together, we can change the future of heart disease

The power of your ongoing support can help save lives and keep more families together. Help us continue to fund promising heart research projects by donating today. ...

Health Professional Tools

Health Professional Tools

Health Professional Tools

Guidelines, publications and support for the health professional community....

Heart Week 2022

Heart Week 2022

Heart Week 2022

With one Australian having a heart attack or stroke every 4 minutes, you have the power to change this statistic. ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

If you're 45 and over, or 30 and over if you're of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, you should book your Heart Health Check today...

Q&A with Dr Louise Segan

Q&A with Dr Louise Segan

Q&A with Dr Louise Segan

Optimal treatment of atrial fibrillation in people with cardiac dysfunction and scarring of the heart ...

Exercise boosts artery health in middle-aged and older men, not testosterone therapy

Exercise boosts artery health in middle-aged and older men, not testosterone therapy

Exercise boosts artery health in middle-aged and older men, not testosterone therapy

Media Release - 22 February 2021...

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Information to help you adjust to what could be the 'new normal'...

Q&A with Mrs Vicki Wade

Q&A with Mrs Vicki Wade

Beyond the Scars: The social and emotional wellbeing of young Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples with rheumatic heart disease...

Research Directory

Research Directory

Chicken fajitas

Chicken fajitas

Chicken fajitas

20 minutes
Serves 4

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving program

Workplace giving is a simple and tax effective way for employees to make regular donations to a cause they care about. ...

Grilled haloumi and crunchy green salad

Grilled haloumi and crunchy green salad

Grilled haloumi and crunchy green salad

8-10 minutes
Serves 4 (as a side)

Your heart medicines

Your heart medicines

Your heart medicines

Information about commonly prescribed heart medicines. ...

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Italian recipes

Find heart healthy Italian recipes....

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Heart Foundation delivers $17.2 million for cutting-edge heart research in a challenging year

Media Release 20 October 2020...

WEBINAR | Lipids in the limelight: clinical update on screening and management

WEBINAR | Lipids in the limelight: clinical update on screening and management

Create your fundraiser at Do it for Heart

Create your fundraiser at Do it for Heart

Create your fundraiser at Do it for Heart

Become a Heart Foundation fundraiser, do it for heart and make a real difference to your community....

Heart Foundation Walking

Heart Foundation Walking

Heart Foundation Walking

Learn more about Heart Foundation Walking and find your local walking group....

CVD and Vaccination Grant

CVD and Vaccination Grant

Enhancing influenza vaccination rates for people living with CVD or at high risk of developing CVD. ...

How to volunteer with us

How to volunteer with us

How to volunteer with us

Join our volunteers and make a difference to the heart health of Australians....

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease....

For Professionals: COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

For Professionals: COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

For Professionals: COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

Information and resources for health care professionals....

Pregnancy and heart disease

Pregnancy and heart disease

Information and resources for health professionals....

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

How can I set and achieve goals to improve my heart health?

Question of the month blog...

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is the broad term for conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart muscle. ...

One pan honey mustard chicken

One pan honey mustard chicken

One pan honey mustard chicken

30 minutes
Serves 2

Dessert recipes

Dessert recipes

Dessert recipes

Find heart healthy dessert recipes....

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Your role as a carer for a heart attack patient is an important one – explore some useful things to know....