This device can adjust your heart-and then disappear


The first medical implant brought about by this breakthrough is a thin sheet, which can vibrate injured tissues by electric shock. Start nerve regeneration, The team tested it on mice. Rogers then worked with cardiologists including Arora, who saw an opportunity to abandon the traditional temporary pacemaker used to treat slow heart rhythms. Rogers compares this dissolvable device to an internal wound healer, an “electronic drug” in which all ingredients are soluble.

Illustration: Northwestern University/George Washington University

At first glance, a device that is half an inch wide and half an inch long may look like a fragile plastic strip. However, in reality, it is a dynamic stack of surfaces and carefully selected elements. The electrical contact is a mixture of tungsten and magnesium. Wireless power is fed into these contacts through a flat coil antenna made of the same material. The energy comes from near-field communication or NFC-enabled antennas, which can be placed on hospital beds or wearable patches. (Sorry, the efficiency of your mobile phone’s tap to pay NFC is not enough to break your heart.)

Having stable electrical contact is essential for any heart device, because each blood draw contraction depends on Heart cells emit rapid pulses. But the equipment must also be dynamic. When the wet heart is filled and emptied, its curved surface creates pressure and strain.The challenge of making something stable with Rogers said, “Flexibility has been an unresolved issue in this field for some time.” “Bioelectronics is great, but how do you maintain a powerful interface over time?”

The team solved this problem with a viscous hydrogel that not only mechanically adheres to the heart-it also locks the heart Chemically. The hydrogel forms a covalent bond with the surface of the tissue. The hydrogel and the loose molecular threads on the heart are chemically woven together. Nitrogen atoms in one fuse with carbon atoms in the other, and vice versa, forming a strong, protein-like connection. “It provides a mechanically soft, tight electrical coupling,” Rogers said.

Each layer will begin to dissolve as soon as it gets wet, and it is important that the device does not degrade prematurely after implantation. Therefore, the pacemaker is located in a dissolvable polymer shell as a buffer of time-the hardware has two weeks to complete its shell dissolution. After that, the rest began to collapse, but by then, the patient should no longer need a pacemaker. If a longer-lasting device is needed, the team can build a version with a thicker capsule.

The team tested the device on animals with small hearts (rats and mice), medium hearts (rabbits), and animals (dogs) with hearts close to human size. In all cases, their devices can control the animal’s heart rate. (They also tested tissues isolated from human donors and achieved the same success.)

Rogers and Arora’s team also tested how the pacemaker disappeared in mice. They showed that these devices remained intact within a week, mostly dissolved at three weeks, and stopped working after four weeks. By 12 weeks, they had completely disappeared.

“To achieve these functions, but also to make the whole process disappear without producing any potential dangers or toxic by-products-this is a huge challenge,” said Alan Roach, A biomedical engineer who developed a heart device at MIT, he was not involved in this work. “Independently, any one of them is feasible,” Roche continued. “But I think it is a great achievement to do them together.”

“It’s really cool to see simple materials; we already know their toxic burden,” said Chris Bettinger, a biomedical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University. “I think simplicity is often underestimated.”

But invasive devices like pacemakers need more tests to prove their safety and effectiveness on the human body. Another challenge may be the landscape on the surface of the heart. Heart patients are more vulnerable to damage than laboratory animals. Raman, a cardiologist who is not part of the Arora team, points out that some people who may need this device have scarred tissues due to heart disease and blockages, which can make making electrical connections more difficult. “But based on the design, people would guess that it might work,” Raman said.


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