Washington University and U of I researchers develop new type of pacemaker

Feb 26, 2014

This photo shows the new cardiac device ― a thin, elastic membrane ― fitted over a rabbit's heart. The membrane is imprinted with a network of electrodes that can monitor cardiac function and deliver an electrical impulse to correct an erratic heartbeat.
Credit University of Illinois and Washington University
Researchers at Washington University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new device that may one day help prevent heart attacks.

Unlike existing pacemakers and implantable defibrillators that are one-size-fits all, the new device is a thin, stretchable membrane designed to fit over the heart like a custom-made glove.

Washington University biomedical engineer Igor Efimov co-led its development. He says the membrane is imprinted with a network of specialized sensors that can monitor the heart 24-7.

"When it senses such a catastrophic event as a heart attack or arrhythmia, it can also apply a high definition therapy. So it can apply stimuli, electrical stimuli from different locations on the device in an optimal fashion to stop this arrhythmia and prevent sudden cardiac death."

Efimov calls the new device a huge advance and hopes it will be approved for use in patients in 10 to 15 years.