Igor Efimov, PhD, at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis and an international team of biomedical engineers and materials scientists have created a 3-D elastic membrane made of a soft, flexible, silicon material that is precisely shaped to match the heart's epicardium, or the outer layer of the wall of the heart. Current technology is two-dimensional and cannot cover the full surface of the epicardium or maintain reliable contact for continual use without sutures or adhesives.
The team can then print tiny sensors onto the membrane that can precisely measure temperature, mechanical strain and pH, among other markers, or deliver a pulse of electricity in cases of arrhythmia. Those sensors could assist physicians with determining the health of the heart, deliver treatment or predict an impending heart attack before a patient exhibits any physical signs.
The findings were published online in Nature Communications Feb. 25, 2014.
"Each heart is a different shape, and current devices are one-size-fits-all and don't at all conform to the geometry of a patient's heart," says Efimov, the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering. "With this application, we image the patient's heart through MRI or CT scan, then computationally extract the image to build a 3-D model that we can print on a 3-D printer. We then mold the shape of the membrane that will constitute the base of the device deployed on the surface of the heart."
Ultimately, the membrane could be used to treat diseases of the ventricles in the lower chambers of the heart or could be inserted inside the heart to treat a variety of disorders, including atrial fibrillation, which affects 3 million to 5 million patients in the United States.
"Currently, medical devices to treat heart rhythm diseases are essentially based on two electrodes inserted through the veins and deployed inside the
|Contact: Neil Schoenherr|
Washington University in St. Louis