THOUSANDS of Brits could be spared the misery of repeated heart surgery after scientists developed a battery-free pacemaker.
The device is designed to correct an irregular rhythm and is charged as the heart beats.
Getty – Contributor Standard pacemakers such as this one require surgery to replace the battery every six to ten years
AFP The new gadget uses a hi-tech ‘energy harvester’ that is wrapped around the heart and generates electricity from movement
It means users do not need an operation to replace empty batteries, as is necessary every six to ten years with existing pacemakers.
The new gadget uses a hi-tech “energy harvester” that is wrapped around the heart and generates electricity from movement.
With each beat of the heart, more electricity is produced to power the pacemaker.
The Georgia Institute of Technology, in the US, has successfully tested the device in pigs, whose hearts are about the same size as those of humans.
SUCCESSFUL TESTS ON PIGS
Study leader Dr Zhong Lin Wang said the energy harvested by his new gadget is higher than that needed for a human pacemaker.
It was able to correct potentially fatal heart conditions in the animals.
Around 50,000 people are fitted with a pacemaker in the UK each year. The gadgets send pulses to the heart to keep it beating regularly.
They are the size of a matchbox, fit in the chest, and consist of a battery, tiny computer circuit and wires, which attach to the heart.
Dr Wang said: “Millions of patients rely on implantable medical electronic devices.
“However, their batteries are generally bulky, rigid, and have short lifetimes. Power source has impeded the progress of IMEDs.”
British experts welcomed the “exciting” breakthrough but warned it could be some years before the devices are ready for human use.
This is because they need to be shown to be safe and capable of generating and storing enough power over the long-term.
SURGERY POSES RISK OF INFECTION
Prof Tim Chico, from the University of Sheffield, said: “Millions of patients undergo insertion of pacemakers to treat fast or slow heart rhythms.
“These are very effective but unfortunately battery life is limited. To replace the battery requires another operation every few years which poses a risk of infection.”
Prof Jeremy Pearson, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “This innovative technology moves us closer to a pacemaker that needs no batteries.
“Despite being an exciting development, much more research is needed.”
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The energy harvest device needs to be inserted around the heart in open heart surgery, which is more invasive than current practice.
This could mean some patients are unsuitable for it.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.
The device has been successfully tested on pigs, whose hearts are about the same size as those of humans
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