Monday, November 5, 2012

Pacemaker can be powered with heart beats

Pacemakers are one of the oldest implantable devices that we use to adjust body functions. Such devices function by generating pulses that instruct the heart to keep beating. This can save the lives of people who are unable to create these pulses themselves, for example as a result of heart damage. A pacemaker makes up for that, but the downside is that it needs batteries in order to be able to generate the necessary electrical pulses. A novel device is supposed to eliminate the need for batteries, saving patients from future surgery.

The device
In order to substitute for batteries, a new way of generating energy had to be found inside the body. The scientists, working at the University of Michigan, found a potential source in the form of heart beats. A piezoelectric device is capable of harnessing the power that heart beats generate, and convert it to the electricity that a pacemaker needs. The piezoelectric effect is characterized by the generation of energy from pressure or other forms of mechanical stress.

So far, the device has not been tested in human patients, but preliminary tests show that it is capable of generating ten times more energy than what is needed to power a pacemaker. The scientists have yet to find out whether the piezoelectric device is capable of holding its own when coupled with a pacemaker and transplanted into a patient, but this is definitely something that will be assessed in the near future. In addition, clinical trials will need to show that the device is safe for use in humans.

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