New electronic membrane could keep your heart beating indefinitely

It’s a poetic fact of biology that everyone’s heart is a slightly different size and shape. And yet today’s cardiac implants—medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators—are basically one size fits all. Among other things, this means these devices, though lifesaving for many patients, are limited in the information they can gather. Researchers recently demonstrated a new kind of personalized heart sensor as part of an effort to change that.

Scientists have created a revolutionary new electronic membrane that could replace pacemakers, fitting over a heart to keep it beating regularly over an indefinite period of time. The device uses a “spider-web-like network of sensors and electrodes” to continuously monitor the heart’s electrical activity and could, in the future, deliver electrical shocks to maintain a healthy heart-rate. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis used computer modelling technology and a 3D-printer to create a prototype membrane and fit it to a rabbit’s heart, keeping the organ operating perfectly “outside of the body in a nutrient and oxygen-rich solution”.

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