Implant uses electricity to heal the heart
We've already heard how electrical pulses have been shown to help heal wounds, by promoting tissue growth. An experimental new implant uses that same principle to aid in the regeneration of cardiac tissue, potentially postponing or even eliminating the need for heart transplants.
Being evaluated via a collaboration between the Medical University of Vienna and Vienna General Hospital, the device is made by German company Berlin Heals. It's intended for use in patients afflicted with dilative cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle degrades to the point that it can no longer contract sufficiently.
Current treatments involve drug regimens or the implantation of pacemakers, although when those approaches aren't sufficient, a complete heart transplant is often necessary. That's where the new device comes in.
Known as the C-MIC (Cardiac Microcurrent) unit, it's laparoscopically implanted under general anaesthetic via two small incisions. It incorporates two electrodes, one of which is applied to the outside of the heart in the form of a patch, and one of which is inserted in one of the ventricles.
Once activated, the fully-implanted main device emits microcurrent electrical pulses, which travel through the heart muscle between the two electrodes. This stimulates the muscle tissue, causing it to regenerate. In the current human trials, the first test subject is showing initial signs of regeneration after receiving the implant three months ago.
"The preliminary findings brings us real hope for cardiomyopathy patients," says the university's Assoc. Prof. Dominik Wiedemann, principal investigator in the study. "Microcurrent regeneration could bring us a step closer to the dream of being able to regenerate damaged organs."