The human heart — equal parts force of nature and creative propeller, it’s a muscle and a trope arduously beloved. What’s more, beyond moving people, the organ of ardor is now moving machines, an American Heart Association study has found.
Researchers from the association put an experimental device, with the unique ability to convert energy from a beating heart into power for a pacemaker, to the test and found expected, albeit promising results — that the tool generated 10 times more faculty than today’s pack of pacemakers demand. Especially since most pacemakers must be replaced every five to seven years due to waning batteries (a costly and inopportune procedure for both patients and practices), the new energy-harvesting implement could transform healthcare device use as it’s known.
"Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years,” said M. Amin Karami, PhD, lead author of the study and research fellow in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in a news release. “You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.”
The device tested by Karami and crew utilizes piezoelectricity, which promotes an electrical charge through motion; this brand of electricity also packs the potential to power other implantable cardiac devices that need only a small amount of charge to operate, such as defibrillators, Karami added. Linear and non-linear energy harvesters have the capacity to run a pacemarker, although the former works best at a specific heart rate, meaning cardiac fluctuation could compromise the device’s ability to generate enough power. For this reason, non-linear harvesters — which utilize magnets for promotion of power — are preferred.
Measurements of heartbeat-induced vibrations in the chest were taken by researchers and then, through use of a “shaker,” recreated in a laboratory settings and applied to a cardiac energy harvesting prototype. After being put through sets of 100 simulated heartbeats and heart rate patterns, the device's stellar performance was fermented. Furthermore, cell phones and microwaves ovens proved not to be an issue regarding the harvester’s functionality, Karami noted.
Actual implantation of the device (which is nearly half the size of the pacemaker batteries currently being used) is still to come, but Karami hopes to include the technology, upon its anticipated success, into the commercial pacemaker market.
The study’s other authors include David J. Bradley, MD, and Daniel J. Inman, PhD. Funding for the work came from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.