Our Own Heartbeat Could Power Future Pacemakers

We've already seen scientists propose harnessing glucose within the human body could power self-sufficient medical implants, now scientists have proved our own heart beat could generate enough electricity to power pacemakers.

With current pacemakers relying on batteries to run (batteries typically last around seven years), the new findings presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012 by a research team from the University of Michigan has the potential to change the lives of patients with pacemakers, stripping back the need for regular operations in order for spent batteries to be retrieved in place of fresh. “Many patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years,” Dr Amin Karami said at the meeting. “You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.”

Using piezoelectric materials – material that can be used to generate an electric charge when its shape is changed - according to the team behind the research, tests conducted seem to imply movements of the heart muscle from simple heartbeats can produce around ten times the amount of electricity required to power current-gen pacemakers. The team now hopes it will soon have the opportunity to test the device on a real heart, with the grand ambition of creating a commercially-viable pacemaker in the near future. Utilising similar techniques to power other implantable cardiac devices such as defibrillators, meanwhile, remains on the agenda.

Richard Birkett