AsianScientist (Jun. 27, 2016) – Pacemakers have been regulating patients’ heartbeats for over eighty years, with recent technological advances rendering them safe and effective.
These devices, however, apply electrical stimulation only at specific points of the heart and do not provide coverage to the entire heart. Furthermore, they are suitable for only a subset of heart failure patients.
A simple solution to this decades-long problem may be on the horizon. A team led by Hyeon Taeghwan, a professor from Seoul National University and the director of the Institute of Basic Sciences’ Center for Nanoparticle Research, has recently developed an epicardial mesh that wraps around the heart and delivers electrical impulses to the entire organ. Details of their device are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
For our hearts to pump, a part of the heart called the sinoatrial node acts as a pacemaker, sending out electrical impulses that spread throughout the organ. In heart failure, however, injury or damage of cardiac muscle disrupts the heart’s ability to pump blood. This in turn leads to reduced heart function and increased cardiac stress.
“For this device, we tried to imitate the elastic and conductive properties of cardiac tissue. We also wanted to compensate for the loss of cardiac muscle by integrating the device with the heart,” corresponding author Dr. Hwang Hye Jin from Harvard Medical School in the US told Asian Scientist Magazine.
According to Hwang, as cardiac tissue is both elastic and conductive, the first challenge was to choose a material that was suitable for fabricating a cardiac tissue-resembling device.
“Recently developed conductive and stretchable materials have several technical issues, such as low conductivity and poor elasticity. To overcome these limitations, we attempted to fabricate a novel nanocomposite of rubber and silver nanowires, which are very highly conductive materials,” she explained.
When the researchers tested the epicardial mesh on animal models, it successfully integrated into the beating hearts of rats that had suffered a heart attack, reducing wall stress and boosting synchronous pumping of the heart. The mesh also terminated heart arrhythmia by acting as an epicardial defibrillator.
Epicardial meshes have been tested in clinical trials before, but showed mixed results in long-term survival studies. The authors hope that their device, which is designed to integrate more faithfully with the heart’s structure and electrical conduction system, provides more consistent results.
The article can be found at: Park et al. (2016) Electromechanical Cardioplasty Using a Wrapped Elasto-Conductive Epicardial Mesh.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Institute for Basic Science.
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