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New device could allow heartbeat to power pacemaker

U-M innovation could eliminate the need for surgeries to replace pacemakers with depleted batteries


LOS ANGELES — An experimental device converted energy from a beating heart to provide enough electricity to power a pacemaker in a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012.

The findings suggest that patients could power their pacemakers — eliminating the need for replacements when batteries are spent.

In a preliminary study, researchers at the University of Michigan Department of Aerospace Engineering and U-M’s C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital Congenital Heart Center tested an energy-harvesting device that uses piezoelectricity — electrical charge generated from motion.

The approach is a promising technological solution for pacemakers, because they require only small amounts of power to operate, says M. Amin Karami, Ph.D., lead author of the study and research fellow in the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

Piezoelectricity might also power other implantable cardiac devices like defibrillators, which also have minimal energy needs, he said.

Today’s pacemakers must be replaced every five to seven years when their batteries run out, which is costly and inconvenient, Karami said.

“Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years,” he said. “You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.

Collaborators included Daniel Inman, Ph.D., chair of Aerospace Engineering at the U-M, and David J. Bradley, M.D., pediatric cardiologist at Mott Children's Hospital.

To learn more go to the American Heart Association newsroom.

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