Could a pacemaker run off a patient's own heartbeat, eliminating the need for painful and pricey surgeries to change the device's batteries?
That's the idea behind new University of Michigan Ann Arbor bioengineering research, which might result in an innovative pacemaking implant that will run off heartbeats instead of replaceable batteries. The device would generate about 10 times more power than a typical pacemaker requires to function.
Read more from GlobalPost: Jellyfish robot created from living cells
The American Heart Association released materials at a Sunday conference in Los Angeles this week detailing the new concept, a small electronic device that "harvests" energy via electrical energy created via mechanical pressure, otherwise referred to as piezoelectricity.
Certain materials are better at harvesting this electrical charge than others, including ceramics and some crystals, says HowStuffWorks.com. Other applications of piezoelectricity could theoretically include pressure-sensitive flooring, thus generating cheap power. (Although this would require a LOT of footsteps).
This new technology could also be used for other medical devices that don't require much power to function, the AHA added.
Patients with heart irregularities often use pacemakers to regulate their heartbeat, by monitoring electrical impulses in the heart, and delivering small pulses to regulate the organ if its beat becomes irregular.
Unfortunately, current pacemakers run off tiny batteries, which must be surgically swapped out about every five to seven years.
"Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years,” said M. Amin Karami, the lead author of the study, to the AHA.
“You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.”