Heartbeats may power future pacemakers

Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:00am EST
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By Michael Kahn

LONDON (Reuters) - Pacemakers and defibrillators of the future may generate an extra power boost from a surprising energy source: The heart itself.

Using a microgenerator powered by heartbeats, a British team said on Monday their experiment produced nearly 17 percent of the electricity needed to run an artificial pacemaker.

This means the next era of pacemakers could incorporate this technology and result in longer-lasting devices with more added functions to help manage the heart, they said.

"This was a proof-of-concept study, and we provided the concept," Paul Roberts at Southampton University Hospital in Britain said in a statement.

"Harvesting surplus energy might be a major transition in implantable pacemakers and defibrillators because engineers will have more energy to work with."

A pacemaker sends electrical impulses to the heart to speed up or slow cardiac rhythm while an implantable cardioverter defibrillator signals the heart to normalize its rhythm if it gets too fast or slow.

The devices save lives and are incorporating evolving technology to become increasingly sophisticated. But the devices are now so small, the only way to produce more power needed to run more functions is to increase battery size.

SIZE OF THE DEVICE   Continued...

<p>A pacemaker is seen in an X-ray in an undated image. REUTERS/FDA/Handout</p>