Scientists at Northwestern University and the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new type of implant for people with heart rhythm disorders, also known as cardiac arrhythmias.
These conditions can cause the heart to beat too quickly or too slowly and can lead to serious health problems, including heart failure, stroke, and sudden death.
The new implant is made from graphene, which is a two-dimensional super material that is ultra-strong, lightweight, and conductive.
The implant, which is as thin as a strand of hair, functions like a pacemaker and is optically transparent.
Current pacemakers and implanted defibrillators require hard, rigid materials that are not compatible with the body.
In contrast, the new graphene implant is thin and flexible enough to conform to the heart’s delicate contours and withstand its dynamic motions.
The implant can softly merge with the heart to simultaneously sense and treat irregular heartbeats.
It can sense when the heart is beating irregularly and deliver electrical stimulation through a series of pulses to correct the rhythm without restricting the heart’s natural movements.
Graphene is an atomically thin form of carbon that is already used in different clinical applications because it is safe and flexible.
The scientists encased the graphene inside a flexible, elastic silicone membrane and placed gold tape onto it to serve as an electrical interconnect between the graphene and the external electronics used to measure and stimulate the heart.
The resulting device was stable for 60 days on an actively beating heart at body temperature, which is comparable to the duration of temporary pacemakers.
The device is also optically transparent, which means that researchers can use an external source of optical light to record and stimulate the heart through the implant.
This offers a new way to diagnose and treat heart ailments and opens up new possibilities for optogenetics, a method to control and monitor single cells with light.
How to prevent heart rhythm problems
Heart rhythm problems, also known as arrhythmias, can have various causes and risk factors. Here are some ways to prevent or manage heart rhythm problems:
Keep your heart healthy: This includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and managing any underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Limit alcohol and caffeine intake: Both alcohol and caffeine can cause heart rhythm problems, so it’s best to limit their consumption.
Manage stress: Stress can increase the risk of heart rhythm problems, so it’s important to find ways to manage stress, such as through exercise, meditation, or relaxation techniques.
Take medications as prescribed: If you have an underlying condition that puts you at risk for heart rhythm problems, such as atrial fibrillation, make sure to take any prescribed medications as directed by your doctor.
Get regular check-ups: Regular check-ups with your doctor can help identify any underlying conditions or risk factors for heart rhythm problems, and allow for early intervention.
Consider a heart-healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help reduce the risk of heart rhythm problems.
Avoid or manage sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition that can lead to heart rhythm problems, so it’s important to manage it through lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine while sleeping.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding heart rhythm problems and to follow their recommendations for prevention and management.
With light, researchers can track specific enzymes as well as interrogate specific heart, muscle, or nerve cells.
If you care about heart health, please read studies about how drinking milk affects risks of heart disease, and herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about drinking coffee to prevent heart disease and stroke, and results showing Omega-3 fats may lower risk of irregular heart rhythm.
The study was conducted by Zexu Lin et al and published in Advanced Materials.
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