New heart implant monitors, treats, and dissolves away.

New heart implant monitors, treats, and dissolves away.

Revolutionary Implant Could Monitor and Treat Heart Patients


Groundbreaking research is underway to develop a temporary implant that can monitor and regulate the heartbeat of patients with heart rhythm complications. The implant, about the size of a postage stamp, is made of biodegradable materials and can safely dissolve after its purpose is fulfilled. This innovative technology promises to revolutionize the way heart patients are monitored and treated, providing greater comfort and freedom during recovery.

A Boon for Heart Patients

The current methods used to monitor and treat heart patients, such as sticky sensors and bulky monitors, can be uncomfortable and inhibit daily activities like showering. The new implant aims to alleviate these issues by offering a less intrusive and more efficient approach. During heart surgery, the implant can be easily inserted and provide accurate readings through electrodes and optical sensors. It can even deliver electrical jolts to correct irregular heart rhythms.

Co-senior researcher Igor Efimov, an experimental cardiologist and professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern University, explains the potential benefit of the implant: “Let’s say someone just had a heart surgery. After heart surgery, about 30% of patients will get atrial fibrillation [a-fib]. We want to create an electronic device which can be implanted for the amount of time required, then dissolve.”

Saving Lives with Early Detection

One-third of the nearly 700,000 heart disease-related deaths in the United States occur due to postoperative complications in the first weeks or months after a heart attack or surgery. Currently, doctors lack the tools necessary to effectively monitor and treat patients during these critical periods. Co-senior researcher Luyao Lu, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at George Washington University, emphasizes the potential impact: “Many deaths that occur following heart surgery or a heart attack could be prevented if doctors had better tools to monitor and treat patients in the delicate weeks and months after these events take place.”

Bioresorbable Material: Safe and Efficient

The implant is composed entirely of materials approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human use. The electrodes primarily consist of molybdenum, a naturally occurring element in the human body. The transparent and flexible framework is made of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA), a biocompatible polymer that safely degrades over time. This unique construction enables the implant to dissolve harmlessly, eliminating the need for follow-up surgeries for removal or adjustment.

A Temporary Solution with Vast Potential

Dr. Deepak Bhatt, director of Mount Sinai Heart in New York City, highlights the potential benefits of the implant: “To be clear, this is very early research, but the experiments that they did I thought were carefully designed, quite elegant, and showed that these microelectrode arrays could potentially be useful in specific clinical situations.” The implant’s temporary nature makes it particularly appealing for patients who may not require a permanent pacemaker, such as those recovering from heart valve replacements.

Vision for the Future

Although the implant is still in the experimental stage and years away from being available to humans, the possibilities it presents are vast. After perfecting the technology, researchers envision its application in various fields of medicine, including tracking illnesses of the brain, gut, and lungs. The potential to develop flexible, dissolvable implants opens doors for remarkable advancements in healthcare.

With further development and testing, this implant has the potential to drastically reduce postoperative complications and improve patient outcomes. As the medical community moves closer to making this visionary device a reality, the future shines brightly for heart patients and the countless lives that could be saved and improved.