Story at a glance
- Scientists have developed a self-dissolving pacemaker for heart patients who need the heartbeat-regulating device for a short period of time.
- The wireless device is designed in part to aid patients after a serious procedure.
- But after the “critical risk period, the pacing functionality is no longer needed,” John A Rogers of Northwestern University and a co-author of the study told The Guardian.
Scientists have developed a self-dissolving pacemaker for heart patients who need the heartbeat-regulating device for a short period of time.
The wireless device is designed in part to aid patients after a serious procedure. But after the “critical risk period, the pacing functionality is no longer needed,” John Rogers of Northwestern University and a co-author of the study told The Guardian.
Traditional pacemakers, when used for brief periods, can carry inherent risks. For example, a typical pacemaker with an “external power supply and control system can become accidentally dislodged.” Further, removal of a device could accidentally cut into heart tissue. The new device, which would cost around $100, can be placed directly on the heart and eventually be absorbed by the body.
The design choices researchers made created “a thin, flexible and lightweight form that maintains excellent biocompatibility and stable function throughout the desired period of use,” researchers wrote in a study published in Nature Biotechnology. Likewise, the device is made up entirely of materials that dissolve over a period of time when they come into contact with biofluids “via metabolic action and hydrolysis.”
Researchers tested the device, which uses a frequency from a separate external source that is converted into an electrical current, on dogs, rats, rabbits and slices of the human heart. When tested on rats, the device “largely dissolves within 5 weeks, and the remaining residues completely disappear after 7 weeks,” the group wrote. Rogers told the outlet the new pacemaker still needs to undergo human trials.
Meanwhile, the Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation Sir Nilesh Samani, who was not involved in the study, told The Guardian that the researcher’s development could prove to be highly beneficial.
“This is an exciting and innovative development which could be useful for some patients after cardiac surgery who develop a temporary problem with the electrical conduction of their heartbeat,” he said. “This will need further testing to establish that it is safe and effective but, if this proves to be the case, then it could prevent patients ending up with permanent pacemakers unnecessarily.”
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