Science/Tech

The Pacemaker Powered by the Heart

First implemented in 1960, the pacemaker is an essential invention for over 3 million people worldwide with over 600,000 more people becoming dependent on them annually. In the body, the pacemaker is a device that regulates the heart by emitting electrical signals. However, this device’s need for a battery to power it causes two problems. The battery has to be changed every 5-10 years, and the pacemaker can break.

The old pacemaker has a bulky center to house the battery, with long electrodes reaching to the heart.

The old pacemaker has a bulky center to house the battery, with long electrodes reaching to the heart.

Based on the design of modern day watches, engineers at the University of Michigan have figured out a way to convert the movements of the heart into energy. This produces around ten times the amount of energy needed to power the pacemaker. Researchers have now developed a pacemaker powered by the heart. The device uses a piezoelectric system to temporarily capture energy, and then send it back out to the heart.

In the old pacemaker, the device used a lithium ion battery for power. But after 5-10 years, surgery had to be done to change the battery, endangering the patient. The new pacemaker avoids this risk as it does not require this kind of maintenance.

The structure of the old pacemaker also put patients at risk. It contained a bulky battery that was attached to leads that would connect to the heart. Because of its size, the battery had to be put further away from the heart and the leads were used to send electricity to the heart. This structure made the pacemaker more likely to break which endangers the patient. This new device does not need leads or a battery, which allows it to be sewn directly onto the heart and makes it much less likely to break.

While animal testing has begun on sheep and pigs, it is still unclear when the product will become available for human testing. Hopefully, the new pacemaker will prove to be a significant advancement in the medical industry.

 

 

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Carter Ellison

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