Northwestern inventor John Rogers has unveiled a wireless pacemaker that can dissolve in the body once its work is done.
The device, detailed by Rogers and colleagues at Northwestern and George Washington University in a study for the journal Nature Biotechnology, naturally can absorb into the body over five to seven weeks and is meant for patients who need only temporary help in regulating their heartbeat. Many patients need pacemakers for only a few days or weeks, either while waiting for a permanent pacemaker or after a procedure such as open-heart surgery.
Current pacemakers can pose an infection risk when used temporarily, and heart tissue can also become damaged when the device is removed.
The device is powered by wireless technology similar in what’s used in the wireless charging of smartphones. It’s made of materials including magnesium, tungsten and iron, which are compatible with the body and are naturally absorbed over time.
"Iron and magnesium are natural, and there's even a recommended daily allowance for them,” Rogers said. “We take supplements containing them."
In addition to testing the device on the hearts of mice and rabbits, colleagues at George Washington were able to test the pacemaker on a donor heart organ, showing that "it can deliver enough pacing power on the human scale,” said Rogers.
With this first paper published, the timeline for potential FDA approval of the device is still about five to seven years away, said Rogers. The device build upon work beginning in 2018 on bioresorbable technology, which has enormous implications for the future of medical devices. In the future, they could help monitor transplant patients and those with traumatic brain injuries.
“The transient electronics platform opens an entirely new chapter in medicine and biomedical research," said GW's Igor Efimov, who co-led the study with Rogers.