A team of more than 4 dozen researchers have invented a remarkable new form of medical technology.
Its network of wireless devices, including a pacemaker that dissolves in the body, monitors body temperature, oxygen levels, respiration, muscle tone, physical activity & the heart. If necessary, the pacemaker can bring the heart back into rhythm.
“For transient cardiac pacing, the system frees patients from the monitoring & stimulation-apparatuses that keep them confined to a hospital setting Instead, patients could recover in the comfort of their own homes while maintaining the peace of mind that comes with remote monitoring by their physicians,” says materials scientist John Rogers, one of the co-authors. He claims device could cut costs & free up hospital beds.
The invention is described in an article published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Science.
Stretchier, stickier, and better-connected than previous models
An earlier version of the pacemaker was introduced last summer. Since then, Rogers & his colleagues have made various improvements to the device. The new version stretches more easily and adapts to the constant movement of a beating heart. It is also attached to the organ with a biodegradable adhesive containing an anti-inflammatory drug to prevent the body from attacking the device with a dangerous immune response as-it breaks down.
The pacemaker itself works with various other units to monitor the patient. A module attached to the outside of chest takes in data and uses an algorithm to-detect problems.
“The cardiacl module literally tells the pacemaker to apply a stimulus to the heart,” says biomedical engineer Igor R. Efimov, another co-author. “When normal activity re-gained, then it stops pacing. This is important because if you pace your heart when it’s not needed, then you risk inducing arrhythmia.
A clinical version has to work — and be safe.
This technology is enormously promising, but also comes with many unanswered questions, according to biomedical researcher Wolfram Hubertus Zimmermann. He says that determining & minimizing frequency of errors is key to making this technology viable for use in a clinical setting.
“This is not a trivial task, as such devices must be able to-make highly accurate.
ECG recordings for clear dissection of signal-from-noise, which is a common problem with modern pacemakers & defibrillators,” he says. Improved materials & new AI-powered algorithms may-be able to help..
Zimmermann says privacy is another concern. “Implanted sensors will collect highly personalized data that could be mis-used or even manipulated,” he says. It is paramount that medical authorities establish strong data protection measures, & patients must be prepared for a nightmare scenario: “an unintentional loss of control” over the device, he says.
It will be some time before cardiologists implant these devices in normal patients. The new device was successful in tests with rats & dogs. It also worked as expected when tested on a donated human heart. But the system has not yet to be tested on a real human.