This amazing 3D piece of silicone dotted with electronics looks like something out of the future -- because it is. In fact, this potential pacemaker replacement fits over the human heart and is capable of monitoring and, soon, responding to, its vital signs.
Developed by researchers from the University of Alberta and the University of Illinois, the device is shaped to resemble the pericardium -- the membrane surrounding the heart. It's covered in 68 tiny sensors capable of tracking temperature, mechanical strain and pH, and is designed with flexible, S-shaped circuitry to exert minimal forces on the heart as it expands and contracts. The research is reported in Nature Communications.
The current design measures rich streams of data, and the next iteration will use embedded electrodes to regulate heartbeat based on that information, too. Further down the line, the researchers hope to develop controlled techniques to dissolve the implant away when it's no longer needed, and are also looking at opportunities to use the device to monitor other organs.
The researchers do admit that it will be a while before the device finds its way to human trials, but in the meantime, it's a wildly exciting example of the power of flexible electronics . [Nature Communications via Medical Xpress]