The electronics can bend, stretch and twist. No small feat. Now the flexible and stretchable electronics can map waves of electrical activity in the heart with better resolution and speed than that of conventional cardiac monitoring technology.
Researchers from Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Pennsylvania are the first to demonstrate a flexible silicon electronics device used for a medical application. The thin device produced high-density maps of a beating heart's electrical activity, providing potential means to localize and treat abnormal heart rhythms.
The results are published as the cover story in the March 24 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The emerging technology holds promise for a new generation of flexible, implantable medical devices, for the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms or epilepsy, as well as new flexible sensors, transmitters, and photovoltaic and microfluidic devices.
"The heart is dynamic and not flat, but electronics currently used for monitoring are flat and rigid," said Northwestern's Yonggang Huang, a senior author of the paper. "Our electronics have a wavy mesh design so they can wrap around irregular and curved surfaces, like the beating heart. The device is thin, flexible and stretchable and brings electronic circuits right to the tissue. More contact points mean better data."
Huang is the Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The device, capable of directly sensing and controlling activity in animal tissue, is based on flexible electronics developed in 2008 by Huang and his collaborator John A. Rogers at the University of Illinois. Brian Litt, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues designed the medical experiments and tested the device in a large animal m
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