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Electronic membrane monitors heart health

Scientists in the US have created a device which they believe could revolutionise treatment of chronic heart problems.

The team, led by Dr Igor Efimov at Washington University in St. Louis and Dr John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has created an elastic membrane that can be pulled over the whole heart, to monitor electrical activity and even warn of an impending heart attack.

The elastic membrane is made of a soft, flexible silicon material embedded with tiny sensors that can measure temperature, mechanical strain and pH, or deliver a pulse of electricity in cases of arrhythmia.

While current devices are 'one size fits all', the researchers believe their solution is superior because it can be customised to fit each individual patient.

Dr Efimov explained: "With this application, we image the patient's heart through MRI or CT scan, then computationally extract the image to build a 3D model that we can print on a 3D printer. We then mould the shape of the membrane that will constitute the base of the device deployed on the surface of the heart."

Ultimately, the researchers believe the membrane could be used to treat diseases of the ventricles in the lower chambers of the heart, or could be inserted inside the heart to treat a variety of disorders.

"Currently, medical devices to treat heart rhythm diseases are essentially based on two electrodes inserted through the veins and deployed inside the chambers," Efimov continued. "Contact with the tissue is only at one or two points, and it is at a very low resolution.

"What we want to create is an approach that will allow you to have numerous points of contact and to correct the problem with high definition diagnostics and high definition therapy."

Laura Hopperton

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