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Researchers present battery-free pacemaker powered by the heart

Researchers have designed a pacemaker that is powered by the pumping of the heart, and plan to start testing it in animals soon, they said at a conference presentation on Wednesday. File Photo by hywards/Shutterstock
Researchers have designed a pacemaker that is powered by the pumping of the heart, and plan to start testing it in animals soon, they said at a conference presentation on Wednesday. File Photo by hywards/Shutterstock

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Researchers in China have developed a battery-less cardiac pacemaker that runs on energy derived from the heart, they said Wednesday during a presentation at the AIP Publishing Horizons -- Energy Storage and Conversion virtual conference.

The new device works by harvesting the heart's kinetic energy, which is created by the pumping of blood through the organ, according to the researchers.

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The technology works in principle, and the researchers are beginning studies of its safety and efficacy in animals, they said.

"The key difference is the method of the power supply," researcher Yi Zhiran said in a press release.

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"[The] current paradigm mainly relies on the battery, which limits the development of many implantable biomedical devices," said Yi, a researcher in mechanical engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

Current cardiac pacemakers are connected to external batteries via leads or wires, according to the researchers.

The battery powers the life-saving device, allowing it to keep the heart beating regularly.

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Yi and his colleagues have been experimenting with battery- and lead-free devices for years but, until now, haven't been able to identify an approach that generates sufficient power.

Their latest attempt, though, may be different: The new device takes energy from the heart via the buckling of the encapsulated structure of the pacemaker, creating buckled piezoelectric energy from the movement of blood.

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However, while the technology appears to work, there are questions about how it should be implanted and whether the power source will remain stable when or if the patient develops heart problems, the researchers said.

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"A battery-less pacemaker is feasible through using implantable energy harvesting technology, which provides a sustainable power supply method," Yi said.

"If the practical force of the heart is 0.5 newtons, the output power should be about 192 microwatts ... [and] for the commercial pacemaker, just about no less than 10 microwatts is sufficient for its normal work," he said.

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