What if your heart could beat perfectly and infinitely? Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis have developed a thin, circuit-lined stretchable membrane that can find its way on human hearts in 10 to 15 years.
Currently the new breakthrough has been successfully tested on a rabbit’s heart (removed from a dead rabbit). The membrane was made specifically for the rabbit’s heart and the process is illustrated in the image below. The heart of the rabbit was scanned while it was still alive, and a 3D model was created from the scanned images. Next, the model was used as a mold to create the membrane after which the rabbit’s heart was removed and the membrane was applied to keep it beating at a perfect pace.
The membrane is less of pacemaker and acts more like a synthetic pericardium, the natural membrane that covers the heart. John Rogers, co-leader of the team that developed the device, from the University of Illinois said:
But this artificial pericardium is instrumented with high quality, man-made devices that can sense and interact with the heart in different ways that are relevant to clinical cardiology.
The circuits that can be seen in the images are actually a combination of sensors that constantly track the tissues’ behavior and electrodes that precisely regulate the movement of the heart’s muscles through electrical stimulation. This a great step forward in the field of medical science and it will no doubt save countless lives in the future once it is brought into human use.