Pacemakers and other implantable cardiac devices have had one of two drawbacks — they are made with rigid materials that can’t move to accommodate a beating heart or they are made from soft materials that can collect only a limited amount of information.
The novel device marks the first time bioelectronics have been developed based on fully rubbery electronic materials that are compatible with heart tissue, allowing the device to solve the limitations of previous cardiac implants, which are mainly made out of rigid electronic materials.
“For people who have heart arrhythmia or a heart attack, you need to quickly identify the problem. This device can do that,” said Cunjiang Yu, associate professor of mechanical engineering at University of Houston.
In addition to the ability to simultaneously collect information from multiple locations on the heart, the device can harvest energy from the heart beating, allowing it to perform without an external power source.
That allows it to not just track data for diagnostics and monitoring but to also offer therapeutic benefits such as electrical pacing and thermal ablation, the researchers reported in a paper published in the journal Nature Electronics.
Yu is a leader in the development of fully rubbery electronics with sensing and other biological capabilities, including for use in robotic hands, skins and other devices.
The epicardial bioelectronics patch builds upon that with a material with mechanical properties that mimic cardiac tissue, allowing for a closer interface and reducing the risk that the implant could damage the heart muscle.
The device suggests a promising route towards next-generational bioelectronics and biosensors that do not have a hard-soft interface for the heart and other organs.
“Our rubbery epicardial patch is capable of multiplexed ECG mapping, strain and temperature sensing, electrical pacing, thermal ablation and energy harvesting functions,” the team wrote.