3D-printed 'electronic glove' could help keep your heart beating for ever
Custom-fitted membrane expands and contracts with the heart, and could one day deliver electric shocks in response to a heart attack
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.
‘Cardiac socks’ of a similar design have been around since the 1980s but have previously been crude, fabric sleeves with electrodes sewn into place. This makes keeping the sensors in full contact with that famously restive organ the heart extremely difficult, if not impossible.
The innovation in this new device is the use of stretchable electronics developed by John Rogers, a materials scientists from the University of Illinois.
Although Rogers' electronics use the same rigid materials found in normal electronics (eg silicon), the circuits are laid out in curved, s-shaped design that allows them to stretch and bend without breaking.
High resolution 3D imaging was used to scan the rabbit's heart and create a mold.
Rogers himself compared the silicon sleeve to the pericardium, the heart’s own membrane, telling KWMU-1 that “this artificial pericardium is instrumented with high quality, man-made devices that can sense and interact with the heart in different ways that are relevant to clinical cardiology.”
Although immediate use for the device will be as a research tool allowing scientists to study how heart rate changes in response to different conditions in the future, electronic membranes of this sort could become common, monitoring at-risk individuals and safeguarding them from heart attacks.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...