March 7, 2014 - Scientists have created a revolutionary new electronic membrane that could replace pacemakers, fitting over a heart to keep it beating regularly over an indefinite period of time.
The device uses a “spider-web-like network of sensors and electrodes” to continuously monitor the heart’s electrical activity and could, in the future, deliver electrical shocks to maintain a healthy heart-rate.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis used computer modelling technology and a 3D-printer to create a prototype membrane and fit it to a rabbit’s heart, keeping the organ operating perfectly “outside of the body in a nutrient and oxygen-rich solution”.
The use of high-resolution imaging technology means that unlike current pacemaker and implantable defibrillator technology, the thin, elastic membrane will be custom-made to fit “snugly” over the real heart.
"When it senses such a catastrophic event as a heart attack or arrhythmia, it can also apply a high definition therapy,” said biomedical engineer Igor Efimov of Washington University, who helped design and test the device.
“It can apply stimuli, electrical stimuli, from different locations on the device in an optimal fashion to stop this arrhythmia and prevent sudden cardiac death,” Efimov told local radio station KWMU-1.