This heart is wrapped in a special electronic membrane that keeps it beating at the perfect rate. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis developed the new membrane to wrap around hearts like a custom-made glove. A spiderweb-like network of specialized electrodes continuously monitor the heart’s electrical activity to keep it beating around the clock at a healthy rate.
The researchers presented their study with a working version of the membrane wrapped around a rabbit’s heart. First they used high-resolution imaging, computer modeling, and a 3D printer to create a plastic model of the heart. Then the scientists used the model as a mold for the elastic membrane. The plastic glove not only fits around the heart perfectly but also expands and contracts as the organ pumps blood.
This membrane is only one part of the equation though. The special sauce is actually a network of sensors and electrodes that monitors the glove and direct an electrical charge tospecific parts of the heart. Unlike a pacemaker or implantable defibrillators, the membrane acts more like a one size fits all implantable device.
“When it senses such a catastrophic event as a heart attack or arrhythmia, it can also apply a high-definition therapy,” Igor Efimov, a Washington University biomedical engineer, said in a release. “So 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.”
Images © University of Illinois