AN INNOVATIVE electric mesh device that wraps around the heart to transport electrical impulses has been used to improve cardiac function in experimental models of heart failure.
Researchers have designed an electrical device that can be used for improving heart function and treating arrhythmias. It has been found to compensate for damaged cardiac muscle and enables the living heart muscle to work more efficiently. This could provide a potentially more integrated treatment approach to heart failure after the electrical conduction system co-ordinating the heart in pumping blood through the body has been damaged.
“Some patients with heart failure are treated with resynchronisation therapy, in which three small electrodes are implanted through a pacemaker to keep the heart contracting co-ordinately,” explained one of the researchers, Dr Hye Jin Hwang, Division of Cardiology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. “But pacemakers deliver electrical stimulation only at specific places in the heart and do not provide comprehensive coverage of the entire organ, as the heart’s own cardiac electric conduction system does,” he said.
The mesh device created by the researchers wraps around and ‘hugs’ the heart to deliver electrical impulses to the whole ventricular myocardium. It is comprised of nanowires embedded in a rubber polymer that can conform to the 3-dimensional anatomy of each individual heart. “We wanted to closely imitate cardiac tissue, which is very elastic, and also imitate its unique functions, which are highly conductive,” Dr Hwang said.
The device was assessed using an in vivo heart failure model in rats. The mesh was integrated structurally and electrically with the myocardium following heart attack. Without disturbing relaxation, it acted as a substructure of the heart during cardiac movement and improved cardiac contractile function.
“The big advance here has been finding a way to create a device that more accurately mimics normal physiology,” explained Prof Peter Zimetbaum, Cardiovascular Medicine, Division of the CardioVascular Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He continued: “The concept of wrapping the heart is not new, but doing it with this attention to a more physiologic approach makes the device exceptionally smart. This is not just another mechanical assist device. It’s an innovative physiologic approach and provides an opportunity to bridge sophisticated engineering and medicine.”