Kennesaw State awarded NIH grant to improve heart surgeries through use of robots

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 28, 2022

Faculty members in Kennesaw State’s Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (SPCEET) are fervently developing a device for certain patients impacted by heart disease, which kills one person every 34 seconds in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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L to R: Ayse Tekes, Amir Ali Amiri Moghadam, Turaj Ashuri

Principal investigator and assistant professor of robotics and mechatronics engineering Amir Ali Amiri Moghadam, associate professor of mechanical engineering Ayse Tekes, and SPCEET’s interim assistant dean for academic affairs Turaj Ashuri were recently awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research ways of improving heart surgeries through the use of tiny robots. The three-year, $364,220 grant will fund their project, “Design and Fabrication of Soft Parallel Robots for Transcatheter Interventions.” 

“This award represents an opportunity to greatly benefit society, and I’m proud that three of our faculty members and their students will be part of the research,” SPCEET Dean Ian Ferguson said. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and this project will be a significant step forward in helping surgeons with their patients.”

The goal of the project is to create a tiny soft robot that will fit inside a catheter and be delivered to the heart. The robots are nimble, precise, versatile, and valuable in multiple procedures, including heart valve repair, atrial fibrillation, and intracardiac echocardiography. 

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“Developing this new device can reduce the impact of heart failure on patients’ lives and those around them, and it helps to lengthen life and promote a healthy society,” Amiri Moghadam said. 

More than 650,000 people die from heart disease each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The three most common cardiac interventions are open-heart surgery, robotic-assisted heart surgery, and transcatheter interventions. 

“Because transcatheter interventions do not require cutting the heart open, they can revolutionize the treatment of cardiac disease,” Amiri Moghadam said. “They cause significantly less trauma to patients and typically involve less recovery time and a reduced risk of infection.”

Upon successful completion of this project, heart surgeons will have access to a novel, efficient device for planning and studying new procedures for transcatheter heart surgery. Over the next three years, Amiri Moghadam will oversee the design group, Tekes will supervise and train graduate and undergraduate students on the development of the soft robot, and Ashuri will lead the finite element team to optimize the structure of the robot.

The three principal investigators also plan to develop a new, technical elective course called “Design and Development of Soft Robots for Biomedical Intervention” for Kennesaw State students interested in this type of work. 

– Abbey O’Brien Barrows
Photos by Matt Yung


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.