Implantables have undoubtedly made an impact in the world of modern medicine, especially implantable pacemakers that have saved many lives by regulating heart rhythm. Although they save lives, there is one minor setback: the batteries only last five to 12 years. Once the batteries deplete, the implantable pacemaker has to be surgically replaced.
Now, researchers have designed a pacemaker powered by the energy of the heart beating, according to a report in ACS Nano. The device has been successfully tested in pigs, which have a similar makeup to humans.
Normally, a conventional pacemaker is implanted under the skin near the collarbone. The battery and circuity generate electrical signals that are delivered to the heart via the implant. When replacing the battery with a surgical procedure, complications can occur, such as infection and bleeding. Although many researchers have tried to build pacemakers using the natural energy of heartbeats, it has yet to be successful. The challenges designers face are that these experimental devices often aren’t powerful enough because of their rigid structure and miniaturizing every element is an extremely intricate process. In turn, Hao Zhang, Bin Yang, and colleagues searched for a solution.
They designed a small, flexible plastic frame and bonded the frame to piezoelectric layers, which generates energy when bent. Then, they implanted the device in a pig and showed that a beating heart could alter the frame’s shape by generating enough power to match the performance of a battery-powered pacemaker.
This study is just one small step in the direction of self-powered cardiac pacemakers, the researchers say.