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Device harvests heartbeat energy to extend pacemaker battery life

Heartbeats could one day help power something beyond hearts. A pacemaker is a device that helps regulate abnormal heart rates using electrical pulses. Leadless pacemakers, which are placed in the heart and don't have wires like conventional transvenous pacemakers, are becoming more popular. However, their batteries only last five to 12 years, and it's difficult to retrieve the device when the battery is drained.

Researchers created a “sleeve” that fits around the pacemaker and is made of flexible piezoelectric materials that harvest the oscillating cardiovascular pressure inside the heart to partially recharge a leadless pacemaker. The project is co-led by Mohammad Malakooti, a University of Washington assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Early experiments showed that the device could provide about 10% of power required for pacing.

As the interdisciplinary team from ME, bioengineering and the UW School of Medicine continues their work, Malakooti shares how the device was created and its potential to improve leadless pacemakers’ battery life. The work was also published in Circulation.

Tell us about the project and the early findings
The device is designed to surround a leadless pacemaker, such as the Medtronic Micra, which sits in the heart’s right ventricle. The challenge with a leadless pacemaker is that it runs out of battery and it’s hard to retrieve. A second device is often implanted without removing the first one.

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