Dissolving electronic device to monitor and treat heart dysfunction gets FDA approval

New gadget can map electrical activity and deliver electrical stimuli to stop atrial fibrillation, before dissolving into the body.
Shubhangi Dua
About the size of a postage stamp, the soft, flexible device uses an array of sensors
About the size of a postage stamp, the soft, flexible device uses an array of sensors

Northwestern University / George Washington University 

Nearly 800K people fall victim to a heart attack in the US each year.

A recent study undertaken by a team of researchers at Northwestern and George Washington (GW) universities has developed a new device to monitor and treat heart disease and dysfunctions in the aftermath of heart-related incidents. 

The device seems to hold promise for providing critical support during the days, weeks, or months following heart problems. According to the researchers convey that the new technology harmlessly dissolves inside the body and skips the need for extraction.

Device features

An experimental cardiologist who co-led the study, Igor Efimov says, “Our transient electronic device can map electrical activity from numerous locations on the atria and then deliver electrical stimuli from many locations to stop atrial fibrillation as soon as it starts."

Efimov additionally says that currently many serious heart complications including atrial fibrillation and heart block, can follow cardiac surgeries or catheter-based therapies.

“We hope our new device can close this gap in technology,” he says, “Current post-surgical monitoring and treatment of these complications require more sophisticated technology than currently available. ”

The gadget is the size of a postage stamp, feels soft, and is a flexible device that uses an array of sensors and actuators. It is curated to conduct highly complicated analyses compared to traditional devices like pacemakers.

The study states that the device can continuously stream information to physicians in addition to having the ability to be positioned in various sections of the heart. 

“Physicians can remotely monitor the patient’s heart in real-time,” the study states, “the device also is highly transparent, allowing physicians to observe specific heart regions to make a diagnosis or provide treatment.”

Co-author of the study, Luyao Lu emphasizes that many deaths from heart attacks and heart surgeries could be prevented if medical professionals had access to better tools. They could treat victims quicker in the following weeks and months of the event. 

“The tool developed in our work has great potential to address unmet needs in many programs of fundamental and translational cardiac research,” he said.

Favorable outcomes

So far the technology has been tested in small animal models exhibiting multiple functions, unlike traditional pacemakers. 

The researchers said the transient device provides an improved picture compared to a pacemaker which only provides an overall image of the heart (whether it's beating or not). 

The gadget made of biocompatible materials works to reestablish normal heart rhythms while simultaneously detecting valuable insights into the heart’s well functioning as well as the problematic area. 

Its transparency further allows researchers to optically map many essential cardiac physical parameters through the device. As a result, the invention offers a more comprehensive understanding of the underlying issues of the heart and its dysfunctions.

The device that dissolves into benign products was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

“Similar to absorbable stitches, the device degrades and then completely disappears through the body’s natural biological processes,” researchers explain, “the device’s bioresorbable nature could reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes by avoiding complications from surgical extraction and lowering infection risks.”