Over the years, we’ve seen many implantable patches that can be used to treat damaged hearts, but a new patch developed by the University of Houston is said to take them into new areas. Described as the first of its kind, the rubber patch is flexible enough to be applied to a beating heart, but because of its flexible electronics, it contains an impressive set of sensing features.
The mechanical engineers who studied the patch set out to address some of the limitations of previous implantable heart devices. They say the devices are often too stiff to move as the heart beats, which can cause tissue to pull. Softer materials can solve this problem, but they often do not provide the same functionality when collecting data.
In their previous work, the researchers incorporated flexible electronics into the robot and stretchable skin, and on that basis, they developed a heart patch that matched the mechanical softness of the heart tissue. Sensors for the patch can collect data on electrophysiological activity, strain, temperature, and heartbeat, all from multiple locations on the organ at the same time.
The team successfully tested the pig’s heart and demonstrated how the device could power itself by collecting energy from beating organs. The researchers were also able to show how the patch treats irregular heartbeats through electrical pacing or heat ablation.
“For people with arrhythmic disorders or heart attacks, you need to quickly identify problems, ” said study co-author Yu. “This kind of device can do that.”
The study was published in the journal Nature Electronics.