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Getting The Rhythm Right: Heartbeat Can Power Pacemakers


Have you been wondering if there is any way to do away with the need for surgeries to replace a pacemaker's battery when it wears out? Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor are working towards an answer to this question.

The average battery life of a pacemaker is said to be five to seven years, and once the battery runs down, the entire pacemaker's pulse generator has to be replaced by a surgery. If it is children who are implanted with pacemakers, one can imagine the number of surgeries they need to undergo in their lifetime to replace the pacemakers with depleted batteries.

In a preliminary study, researchers led by Amin Karami, tested an energy-harvesting device that converts energy from a beating heart to provide enough electricity to power a pacemaker.

Pacemakers, powered by this energy-harvesting device that uses piezoelectricity (electrical charge generated from motion), can eliminate the need for replacements when batteries are depleted, the researchers say.

The energy harvester used in the study is a nonlinear type, which has an advantage of being less sensitive to heart rate changes, and it uses magnets to enhance power production. The other type of energy harvester - the linear harvester, works well only at a specific heart rate, and so heart rate changes prevent this type from harvesting enough power.

In the next phase of the research, the scientists will be implanting the energy harvester, which is about half the size of batteries now used in pacemakers, Karami added.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012.

It is estimated that there are 3 million people in the world with pacemakers, and nearly 600,000 people get pacemakers implanted every year. So, if pacemakers powered by the new energy harvester become a reality, it could be a huge relief for the patients as the need for replacements can be eliminated when batteries lose power.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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