A dissolvable implant injected into the body could help millions of people suffering from heart failure, according to a new study.
The soft, wireless device can be placed on various sections of the organ, helping doctors give better treatments and enabling drug changes at an earlier stage.
It restores normal heart rhythms and shows which areas are not functioning well. The postage stamp-sized monitor is highly transparent and works in real-time, continually streaming information.
Once its job is done, it harmlessly disintegrates like absorbable stitches, bypassing the need for surgical removal.
“Several serious complications, including atrial fibrillation and heart block, can follow cardiac surgeries or catheter-based therapies,” explained co-author Professor Igor Efimov, of Northwestern University. “Current post-surgical monitoring and treatment of these complications require more sophisticated technology than currently available.”
“We hope our new device can close this gap in technology. Our transient electronic device can map electrical activity from numerous locations on the atria and then deliver electrical stimuli from many locations to stop atrial fibrillation as soon as it starts,” he said.
Cardiovascular disease is the world’s number one killer, claiming around 18 million lives a year.
The flexible device could help prevent about six million that occur in the days, weeks, or months following a heart attack.
“Many deaths that occur following heart surgery or a heart attack could be prevented if doctors had better tools to monitor and treat patients in the delicate weeks and months after these events take place. The tool developed in our work has great potential to address unmet needs in many programs of fundamental and translational cardiac research,” said co-author Dr. Luyao Lu, of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
The implant is made of biocompatible materials approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and simply dissolves into benign products. It eventually degrades and then completely disappears through the body’s natural biological processes.
The device described in Science Advances has already been shown to work in small animal models. It provides functions beyond those of a traditional pacemaker. Not only can it restore normal heart rhythms, but it also can show which areas of the heart are functioning well and which areas are not.
The device’s transparent nature also allows researchers to optically map many important cardiac physical parameters through the device to better study heart function and heart disease mechanisms.
It could reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes by avoiding complications from surgical extraction and lowering infection risks.
“After heart surgeries, surgeons sometimes insert temporary wires, which are connected to external current generators, to provide electrical stimulation during temporary heart block caused by the surgery,” Efimov said. “Recently, we developed a bioresorbable pacemaker to replace such a wire. Post-operative atrial fibrillation requires a more complicated approach based on a multi-electrode array for sensing and stopping atrial fibrillation. Now, we present a novel technology to achieve this goal.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Sterling Creighton Beard and Joseph Donald Gunderson
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