Feb 14, 2019

Next-gen pacemakers could use heartbeats as a power source

An implanted pacemaker seen on a frontal chest X-ray. Photo: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

Engineers at Dartmouth University have developed a new method to charge implanted cardiac devices with energy derived from the motion of heartbeats.

Why it matters: A major challenge in medical implant design is reducing device size without sacrificing the battery power and energy needed to sustain biological functions. Because the Dartmouth method enables charging upon use, it may allow for a smaller-sized battery and more comfortable designs that don't carry the risk of surgical complications from replacement.

Background: Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. It is estimated that over 800,000 Americans have implanted cardiac devices, with more than 10,000 patients undergoing surgical implantation every month. Cardiac devices deliver low-energy pacing and electrical currents to correct heart rhythms and potentially fatal arrhythmias.

  • Most are made of titanium and include a pulsed generator with a sealed lithium battery and wires incorporated with electrodes attached to the heart.
  • Currently, the batteries in these devices are not rechargeable and typically require surgical replacement after 5–12 years. The surgery, although considered minor, always carries risk of infection and death.

What's new: Engineers were able to convert the kinetic energy of the heartbeat into electricity by adding a thin, energy-converting film to existing devices. The Dartmouth innovation follows other improvements made in recent years.

What to watch: Engineers are currently testing the Dartmouth technology and expect potential market introduction in 5 years.

Maggie Teliska is a technical specialist at Caldwell Intellectual Property Law, an intellectual property law firm, and CTO of Regent Power. She is also a member of GLG, a platform connecting businesses with industry experts.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

FBI sees record number of gun background checks amid coronavirus

Guns on display at a store in Manassas, Va. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Driving the news: The spike's timing suggests it may be driven at least in part by the coronavirus.