April 13, 2024
Cardiac Care

Revolutionizing Cardiac Care with Light-Powered Pacemaker Innovation

Researchers have developed a groundbreaking technology that could transform cardiac care by eliminating the need for batteries in pacemakers and enabling a more natural heart function. In a recent study published in the journal Nature, scientists unveiled a wireless, ultrathin pacemaker that harnesses light to operate like a solar panel.

Conventionally, pacemakers rely on electronic circuits with batteries and leads attached to the heart muscle to regulate heart rhythms. However, these leads can fail, leading to tissue damage, and their rigid metallic electrodes may cause harm when restarting the heart or regulating arrhythmia after surgery. Moreover, the inability to alter lead placement post-implantation limits access to different heart regions.

The newly designed pacemaker, thinner than a human hair, consists of an optic fiber and a silicon membrane developed by researchers at the Tian lab and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. By converting light into bioelectricity, the device can precisely stimulate multiple areas of the heart, resulting in more effective pacing.

Unlike traditional solar cells, which aim to maximize energy collection, this innovative pacemaker generates electricity only at specific points where light strikes, allowing for precise regulation of heartbeats. Through the use of small pores that trap light and electrical current, only cardiac muscles exposed to light-activated pores are stimulated.

The device’s compact size and flexibility enable it to be implanted without the need for invasive chest surgery. Successful animal trials, including implantation in rodents and a pig, showcased the device’s capability to pace different heart muscles. As pig hearts closely resemble human hearts anatomically, this achievement underscores the potential for translating the technology to human patients.

The light-powered pacemaker offers advantages such as reduced postoperative trauma, improved pacing, and synchronized heart contractions. It is particularly beneficial for urgent heart conditions like heart restart after surgery, heart attacks, and ventricular defibrillation. Researchers are actively investigating the long-term effectiveness and durability of the device within the human body.

To address potential challenges such as bodily fluid disturbances and scar tissue formation around the implant, the team is developing specialized surface treatments and biomaterial coatings to enhance compatibility and reduce rejection risks. By optimizing the device’s natural dissolution rate within the body, researchers aim to facilitate long-term implantation and potentially introduce wearable pacemaker options in the future.

Looking beyond cardiac care, the research team envisions the broad application of light-powered technology, termed photoelectroceuticals, in neurostimulation, neuroprostheses, and pain management for conditions like Parkinson’s disease. The innovative pacemaker represents a significant leap towards personalized, minimally invasive treatments in the field of medical device technology.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research.
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.