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New Self-Powered Cardiac Pacemaker May Extend Battery Life and Help Patients

First Posted: Jun 24, 2014 12:43 PM EDT

Pacemakers are used worldwide and are implanted by the millions each year. This means that improving the lifespan of pacemaker batteries is crucial for the health and well-being of patients; now, scientists may have found a way to extend the life of pacemakers indefinitely.

An artificial cardiac pacemaker is usually integrated into the human body in order to regulate the heartbeats of a patient. More specifically, it uses electrical stimulation in order to contract the cardiac muscles of people who suffer from arrhythmia. Unfortunately, repeated surgeries to replace pacemaker batteries can expose elderly people to health risks; this means that finding a way to extend the life of these batteries is crucial moving forward.

Now, researchers have managed to create a self-powered artificial cardiac pacemaker that is operated semi-permanently by a flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator. The newly designed flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator was able to directly stimulate a living rat's heart using electrical energy converted from the small body movements of the rat. This technology, in particular, could prolong the lifetime of cardiac pacemakers and could even help with real-time heart monitoring.

"For clinical purposes, the current achievement will benefit the development of self-powered cardiac pacemakers as well as prevent heart attacks via the real-time diagnosis of heart arrhythmia," said Keon Jae Lee, one of the researchers, in a news release. "In addition, the flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator could also be utilized as an electrical source for various implantable medical devices."

The new device could be huge in terms of helping patients with pacemakers. That said, scientists still need to conduct more tests before this technology is used in humans.

The findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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