Pacemakers without batteries or symbiotic cardiac pacemakers can operate using energy harvested from a person's heartbeat. This device was tested on pigs, but will it work on humans?

American and Chinese scientists led a successful trial of a battery-free pacemaker that can generate power from the kinetic energy of an animal's heartbeat.

This new research opens the possibility of using a pacemaker and other implantable medical devices without the bulky power packs.

Testing On A Pig

Pigs were used in the tests because the size of their hearts is similar to a human heart.

The scientists tested a fully implanted pacemaker that is based on an implantable triboelectric nanogenerator, which can harvest and store energy and ensure cardiac pacing on a large animal.

The symbiotic pacemaker consists of three parts: the energy harvest unit or iTENG, power management unit, and the pacemaker unit. The iTENG harvests energy from cardiac motion. The resulting electrical energy drives the pacemaker unit to produce pacing electrical pulses that control the rate of cardiac contraction.

The iTENG is connected to the pacemaker unit via wires and rectifier. The electrical energy generated from the iTENG is stored in the capacitor of the pacemaker, which can be switched on through a magnet placed outside the body that serves as a wireless passive trigger. The harvested energy was higher than that what is needed for a human pacemaker. During the tests, the device has successfully corrected sinus arrhythmia and deterioration in the subject.

Future For Humans?

The scientists, however, said it could take some years before the symbiotic cardiac pacemakers are ready to be implanted safely into human patients.

"The study results are very encouraging but there is a lot of work to be done before it might be used in humans," said Tim Chico, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield who was not involved in the study.

Pacemakers Save Lives

A pacemaker is a small medical device implanted underneath the skin of the chest or abdomen to help control irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia. It helps regulate the heart's rhythm by sending electrical signals to the heart.

Pacemakers, or implantable medical electronic devices, are saving countless lives by regulating the heart's rhythm. However, it has a downside: the batteries of pacemakers last only from five to 12 years, which can only be replaced through a minor surgery.

"Power source has impeded the progress of IMEDs," said, Dr. Zhong Lin Wang from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States.

The study results are published in the Nature Communications journal.

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