A team of researchers in Texas has redesigned the pacemaker, developing a new prototype that is wireless, battery-free and can be implanted directly into a patient's heart. Wirelessly powered by a microwave transmitter that sits outside the body, the design offers an innovative new type of pacemaker that promises less complications than current devices.

While we have seen plenty of types of new pacemakers in recent years, from the spectacularly tiny to those running on unusual power sources, most still fundamentally utilized the same mechanism. Traditionally, the electrical signals generated by pacemakers that stimulate the heart are transmitted via wires, or "leads." The pacemakers themselves sit away from the heart, while the "leads" are what actually penetrate into the organ.

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Many common complications from modern pacemakers arise from bleeding or infection in relation to these leads, but this new prototype pacemaker developed by researchers at Rice University and the Texas Heart Institute can be implanted directly into the heart, meaning the troublesome leads can be eliminated.

By developing a wireless power source, the team could produce a new pacemaker that can directly pace multiple points from within the heart. The chip inside the new system is less than 4 mm wide and is powered by microwaves in the 8 to 10 gigahertz range. An external battery pack sits outside the wearer's body, transmitting the waves that the pacemaker harvests its energy from.

"This technology 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," says Dr Mehdi Razavi, one of the developers of the new pacemaker.

The external power source removes the need for subsequent surgeries to replace a battery and offers physicians the ability to wirelessly alter the frequency of the pacing signals by easily altering the power transmitted by the battery pack.

The team has successfully tested the device in animals, and is set to further the develop the technology for clinical applications in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers are presenting their wireless, battery-less pacemaker at the 2017 International Microwave Symposium currently underway in Honolulu.

Source: Rice University

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