Medical researchers have manufactured and tested a pioneering pacemaker that needs no battery and can be inserted straight into hearts.
Their medical technology breakthrough could spell the end of traditional, battery-powered pacemakers and their associated follow-up operations.
Developed by a team comprising Texas Heart Institute and Rice University (Texas) representatives, the battery-less pacemaker had its public debut at the IMS (International Microwave Symposium) event, held in Hawaii in early June.
The battery-free pacemaker is just 16 millimetres tall and 3.8 millimetres wide. It features a storage capacitor, a CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) chip and a PMOS (P-type Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) switch.
Battery power is still needed to operate it but this is supplied from outside the body via a special pack. Such means of power supply has two main advantages. Firstly, battery replacement surgeries are no longer required. Secondly, the pacemaker’s rhythm level can be adjusted by varying the power input so, again, it all happens externally.
No Need For Leads
Normally, pacemakers come with wires, known as ‘leads’. The leads are implanted into the heart, so it’s these which link up organ and pacemaker. The pacemaker subsequently gets to work but does so without making direct contact with the heart. This leads approach can all too often result in infections or bleeds. Such events, with the battery-less pacemaker in place, should become a thing of the past.
"This technology”, pacemaker co-developer, Dr Mehdi Razavi explains, “brings into sharp focus the remarkable possibility of achieving the 'Triple Crown' of treatment of both the most common and most lethal cardiac arrhythmias: external powering, wireless pacing and - far and away most importantly - cardiac defibrillation that is not only painless but is actually imperceptible to the patient.”
Razavi and colleagues have already carried out animal-based trials to test our their new cardiac technology. These trials involved a pig whose heart rate the pacemaker managed to increase from 100 beats per minute to 175 bpm.
The tests went well enough to warrant the start of human clinical trials, which the team is now moving towards.
Main image caption: ‘The internal components of a battery-free pacemaker introduced this week by Rice University and the Texas Heart Institute. The pacemaker can be inserted into the heart and powered by a battery pack outside the body, eliminating the need for wire leads and surgeries to occasionally replace the battery’. Image copyright/courtesy Rice Integrated Systems and Circuits