3D-Printed Heart Implant Could Save Lives
If you thought 3D printing technology was all fun and games, think again. Working together, medical researchers and engineers around the world have developed a flexible, 3D elastic membrane that could help predict cardiac disorders.
The international team of biomedical engineers and materials scientists printed tiny sensors onto a membrane that could provide physicians with more detailed information about the health of a heart. The new 3D-printed membrane can predict heart complications before patients exhibit physical symptoms and deliver treatment if needed; the sensors can measure temperature, strain and pH levels, among other information.
They can also deliver electric pulses when patients experience irregular heartbeats.
The team was led by Igor Efimov, a biomedical engineering professor at Washington University in St. Louis. They created the membrane out of silicon material and shaped it to match the heart’s epicardium — the outer layer of the muscle’s wall.
The flexibility of the membrane solves the problems of current two-dimensional technology that cannot cover the full surface of the the epicardium or maintain contact to the heart without sutures or adhesives. “Each heart is a different shape, and current devices are one-size-fits-all and don’t at all conform to the geometry of a patient’s heart,” Efimov said in a press release.
To produce the sensor membrane, the team imaged a patient’s heart through an MRI or CT scan. Then they extracted the image to build a 3D model of the heart that could be sent to a 3D printer. After printing the membrane, they mold the shape of it that will house the base on the surface of the heart.