“My heart will go on, and on..” I can hear Celine Dion now. And soon, your heart may be able to go on and on as well, thanks to a revolutionary electronic membrane designed to keep your heart rate beating perfectly. The membrane is made from a thin, circuit-lined stretchable material that has been developed at the University of Illinois and Washington University by scientists. This technology may be available for human hearts in 10 to 15 years.
At this point, only rabbits can have a perfectly beating heart. Scientists custom-made the membrane to exactly fit the shape of a particular rabbit’s heart. In order to do this, they followed two procedures. Firstly, they scanned the rabbit’s heart while it was still alive and created a 3D model using computer aided tomography (sectional images through penetrating waves). Secondly, using a 3D printer, they assembled the model which they then used as a mould to design the membrane. Once the membrane was created, they took the heart out of the rabbit, put the membrane on it and kept it beating at its perfect pace.
John Rorgers, materials researcher at the University of Illinois, stated that this technology is just like the natural membrane that is already on the heart, not just a pacemaker. However, this artificial pericardium is equipped with high quality, man-made technology that can sense and communicate with the heart in ways that are relevant to clinical cardiology. Igor Efimov, Washington University’s biomedical engineer, says that this is a big advancement. The circuits are a combination of sensors that continuously track the tissues’ way of behaving and electrodes that exactly control the heart muscles’ movement:
If the heart were to suffer a heart attack, the membrane can apply therapy. It can apply stimuli that can stop sudden cardiac death. What an amazing feat!!
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