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Flexible electronics could help put off-beat hearts back on rhythm
Date:3/24/2010

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Arrhythmic hearts soon may beat in time again, with minimal surgical invasion, thanks to flexible electronics technology developed by a team of University of Illinois researchers, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Northwestern University. These biocompatible silicon devices could mark the beginning of a new wave of surgical electronics.

Co-senior author John Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Chair in Engineering Innovation and a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois, and his team will publish their breakthrough in the cover story of the March 24 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Several treatments are available for hearts that dance to their own tempo, ranging from pacemaker implants to cardiac ablation therapy, a process that selectively targets and destroys clusters of arrhythmic cells. Current techniques require multiple electrodes placed on the tissue in a time-consuming, point-by-point process to construct a patchwork cardiac map. In addition, the difficulty of connecting rigid, flat sensors to soft, curved tissue impedes the electrodes' ability to monitor and stimulate the heart.

Rogers and his team have built a flexible sensor array that can wrap around the heart to map large areas of tissue at once. The array contains 2,016 silicon nanomembrane transistors, each monitoring electricity coursing through a beating heart.

The Pennsylvania team demonstrated the transistor array on the beating hearts of live pigs, a common model for human hearts. They witnessed a high-resolution, real-time display of the pigs' pulsing cardiac tissues something never before possible.

"We believe that this technology may herald a new generation of devices for localizing and treating abnormal heart rhythms," said co-sernior author Brian Litt, of the University of Pennsylvania.

"This allows us to apply the full power of silicon e
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Contact: Liz Ahlberg
eahlberg@illinois.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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