It’s the ultimate pacemaker- a sleeve, fitted over the heart, that acts as an artificial pericardium and keeps the heart beating at a consistent rate.
Researchers used a 3D printer to create an exact replica of a rabbit’s heart, then built an elastic silicon membrane around the model. This circuit-lined membrane is able to sense abnormalities in heart rhythm, and it can apply electrical stimuli to the heart in a way that could prevent the heart from stopping. Awesome.
It’s possible that this technology could be used on human hearts in about a decade. Unlike current pacemakers, which aren’t specifically made for a particular person, this would be a custom piece of equipment- unique to each patient! It also has the capability to cover the entire surface of the heart, making it more effective than 2D devices. It has the capability to sense pH, temperature, mechanical strain, and electrical, thermal and optical stimulation. Watch the device in action and read more about it here.
Researchers can learn a lot through carefully planned, well-designed research studies. But sometimes, they can learn just as much from completely unexpected outcomes.
Take Viagra, for example. (Or if you’re a woman… don’t.) It was originally intended as a treatment for high blood pressure and heart disease, but an unexpected side effect made for quite a few happy men (and women)!
In the latest unexpected outcome, researchers were using charged microparticles to study West Nile virus, but a batch of microparticles were accidentally given a negative charge. When this happened, the microparticles bound to certain proteins on monocytes and sent those monocytes to the spleen for destruction. This is important because monocytes are responsible for a lot of the damage done to the heart muscle in the days following a heart attack. 12 hours after a heart attack, treated mice had lesions half the size of control mice, and their hearts pumped more efficiently! They also found an improvement in mouse models of multiple sclerosis, IBS, and kidney injuries with this treatment! Next step: human clinical trials in an attempt to limit tissue damage after heart attacks. This was a pretty good mistake!