Smart pacemaker dissolves inside the body when no longer needed

The device has successfully been tested on living rodents and dogs, as well as human hearts in the lab (Picture: Northwestern University)

Scientists have created a new type of temporary pacemaker that dissolves on its own once it’s no longer needed.

Unlike traditional pacemakers, the thin, flexible device does not require batteries or wires connected to the heart to regulate a person’s heart to operate.

The best part is that device is ‘bioresorbable’, meaning its water-soluble metals and other components dissolve in bodily fluid over several weeks.

Usually, when a pacemaker needs to be removed or replaced, doctors have to surgically extract the wires and electrodes attached to the heart.

While this procedure is typically safe, it can raise the risk of infection or other complications.

This new device would in theory be able to eliminate these risks completely.

The device is bioresorbable, meaning it can dissolve in bodily fluid over several weeks (Picture: Northwestern University)

Last year, researchers at Northwestern University and George Washington University debuted the first version of the pacemaker.

In the latest study, published in Science, the group has added more features to their pacemaker.

According to the study’s author Igor Efimov, the pacemaker now comes with four ‘fully integrated network of wearable devices’ attached to a patient’s skin.

These devices not only monitor a person’s heartbeat and other vital signs like body temperature — they also wirelessly power the pacemaker and control its pacing automatically as needed.

Doctors can use it to remotely monitor the data collected by the device on a computer network.

The pacemaker naturally dissolves in the body after a period of need (Picture:  Northwestern University)

The device has successfully been tested on living rodents and dogs, as well as human hearts in the lab.

Should the device continue to show promise, it could one day be used in patients undergoing cardiac surgery or who otherwise only need a pacemaker for a short while.

‘In current settings, temporary pacemakers require a wire that is connected to an external generator that stimulates the heart,’ Efimov said.

When the heart regains its ability to stimulate itself appropriately, the wire connected to the heart has to be pulled out in a pretty dramatic procedure.

Sorry, this video isn’t available any more.

‘We decided to approach this problem from a different angle. We created a pacemaker that simply dissolves and does not need to be removed. This avoids the dangerous step of pulling out the wire,’

Thanks to this device, patients could recover from cardiac surgery in the comfort of their homes while being remotely monitored by their physicians.

The team of researchers, combined their bioresorbable pacemaker with four different skin-interfaced devices to work together.

The skin-mounted devices are soft, flexible and can be gently peeled off after use, eliminating the need for surgical removal.

The device has successfully been tested on living rodents and dogs, as well as human hearts in the lab (Picture: Northwestern University)

Every year, approximately 40,000 babies are born with a hole in the wall that separates their heart’s upper chambers. About 10,000 of these cases are life threatening, requiring immediate surgery. After surgery, all these babies receive a temporary pacemaker.

‘The good news is this is a temporary condition,’ Efimov said. ‘After about five to seven days, the heart regains its ability to stimulate itself and no longer needs a pacemaker,’

While the procedure to remove the pacemaker has little complications, this device could free babies from the wires connecting to an external generator and cut down the need for a second procedure.


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