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Ultra Thin Minimally Invasive Pacemaker Controlled By Light

4 months, 4 weeks ago

3940  0
Posted on Feb 23, 2024, 4 p.m.

Image caption: University of Chicago materials researcher Pengju Li holds a prototype pacemaker made of a specially engineered membrane. At just one-fiftieth of a gram, it is significantly smaller and lighter than current pacemakers. Image Credit: Jean Lachat/University of Chicago

Millions of people around the globe rely on pacemakers to regulate the electrical impulses of the heart to keep it beating smoothly. Although some of these devices are fairly small, researchers would like these devices to be even smaller and less intrusive to help reduce complications. A paper published in Nature describes how researchers from the University of Chicago are developing a wireless device powered by light containing no moving parts that can be implanted to regulate cardiovascular or neural activity with featherlight membranes with minimally invasive surgery.  

"The early experiments have been very successful, and we're really hopeful about the future for this translational technology," said Pengju Li, a graduate student at the University of Chicago and first author on the paper.

"In a solar cell, you want to collect as much sunlight as possible and move that energy along the cell no matter what part of the panel is struck," explained Li. "But for this application, you want to be able to shine a light at a very localized area and activate only that one area."

The team set out to create a photovoltaic material that would only activate where the light struck, eventually settling on a design with two layers of P-type silicon material that responds to light by creating an electrical charge. The top layer has tiny holes to boost the electrical performance and concentrate the electricity without allowing it to spread. The end result is a tiny flexible membrane that can be inserted into the body with a tiny tube along with optic fibers in minimally invasive surgery weighing less than one-fiftieth of a gram. 

"The more lightweight a device is, the more comfortable it typically is for patients," said Li.

Although this version is meant for temporary use, it does not require another invasive surgery to remove it, it simply dissolves into non-toxic silicic acid over time. The researchers made note that the devices could be engineered to last different lifespans depending on how long the heart stimulation period is desired to last. Additionally, these first trials are with heart tissues, but this approach could be used for neuromodulation as well to stimulate nerve movements in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or to help treat chronic pain. 

"This advancement is a game-changer in cardiac resynchronization therapy," said Narutoshi Hibino, professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine and co-corresponding author on the study. "We're at the cusp of a new frontier where bioelectronics can seamlessly integrate with the body's natural functions."

 "I remember that day because it worked in the very first trial," he said. "It's both a miraculous achievement and a reward for our extensive efforts,” said Tian, speaking of the first time they tried the pacemaker in trials with pig hearts. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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Image Credit: Jean Lachat/University of Chicago

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