Self-charging pacemaker breakthrough

24 April 2019        

Category: Research

An innovative device has moved scientists one step closer to a pacemaker without batteries, according to a study trialled in pigs and published in Nature Communications.

 

A pacemaker is a small electrical device, fitted in the chest or abdomen. It's used to treat abnormal heart rhythms that can cause your heart to either beat too quickly, too slowly or to miss beats. Some pacemakers can also help the chambers of your heart beat in time.

Pacemakers are powered by batteries, and currently the average battery lifespan is 6 to 7 years. Between 40 and 50,000 pacemakers are fitted every year in the UK.

A group of researchers in China successfully implanted a self-powered pacemaker into pigs. The new device uses a thin sheet, called an implantable triboelectric nanogenerator, which is a special piece of apparatus that is attached to the surface of the heart. When the heart contracts, the sheet bends and generates electrical energy. This energy then powers the pacemaker, without the need for batteries.

Exciting step but more to do

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said:

“This innovative technology moves us closer to a pacemaker that needs no batteries and is powered by a device that converts heart muscle contractions into electrical energy.

“Despite being an exciting development, much more research is needed to understand whether this technology would be durable in humans and can generate enough power to meet the body’s demands.”

Find out more about pacemakers