Implantable Cardiac Patch Monitors and Treats Heart Disease without Drawbacks of Pacemakers

Implantable Cardiac Patch Monitors and Treats Heart Disease without Drawbacks of Pacemakers

A flexible cardiac patch has been developed that monitors for heart disease risks and can provide treatment without the drawbacks of standard pacemakers and other implantable cardiac devices.

Each year, around 200,000 pacemakers are implanted in patients in the United States to treat arrhythmias. While pacemakers have saved many lives and are effective, they do have drawbacks. Pacemakers rely on an external power source and are made out of rigid materials, so they cannot flex with the beating heart so they cannot be placed directly on the heart. The devices can also strain cardiac tissue. While soft patches have been developed, they too have their limitations, often lacking spatiotemporal mapping or sensing capabilities and are only capable of collecting a limited amount of data.

The new patch, developed by scientists at the University of Houston, solves these problems. The device is constructed entirely from fully flexible, rubbery materials, which allows it to be placed directly on the heart. In contrast to other soft devices, the new cardiac patch can simultaneously collect a wide range of data and can monitor temperature, electrophysiological activity, heartbeat, and other indicators of cardiac problems, without risking damage to heart tissue. The device can also provide treatment like a pacemaker such as electrical pacing as well as thermal ablation. Further, the device does not require an external power source as it derives its power by harvesting energy from the beating heart.

The flexible implantable patch was developed by UH researcher Cunjiang Yu and his team. Yu is a leader in rubbery electronics, which have been used in robotic hands, skin, and other devices. The cardiac patch builds on previous work and features mechanical properties similar to cardiac tissue. The cardiac patch is the first to be developed entirely from all-rubber electronic material and could be a game changer for patients with heart problems.

“For people who have heart arrhythmia or a heart attack, you need to quickly identify the problem. This device can do that,” said Yu.

You can read more about the patch in the paper – An epicardial bioelectronic patch made from soft rubbery materials and capable of spatiotemporal mapping of electrophysiological activity – which was recently published in Nature Electronics. DOI: 10.1038/s41928-020-00493-6

Image source: University of Houston

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