Apr 30, 2018 | By David

A team of students at Rice University has made use of a 3D printed heart to develop a demonstration for the next generation of pacemakers. Following the lead of many recent pacemaker devices that can operate wirelessly, their pacemaker features a series of tiny sensor chips that create an embedded network within the heart, which releases energy when a problem is detected. The team, known as "Love and Pace" and made up of electrical and computer engineering seniors, was awarded the Excellence in Capstone Engineering Design Award and a $1,000 prize at the annual George R. Brown Engineering Design Showcase for its efforts.

Traditional pacemakers are powered by a pulse generator which is located in a patient’s chest, and is connected to the heart via up to three wired stimulus and sensing leads. Recent wireless devices have made use of radio frequency energy harvesting instead, in order to provide the jolt that is needed to keep the heart running in the correct way. Last year, a former Rice faculty member, Aydin Babakhani, and his Texas Medical Center colleagues, introduced a concept for a more advanced version of this wireless pacemaker that could be embedded in the heart. The Love and Pace team, consisting of Yoseph Maguire, Chris Chivetta, Yixin Chen, Cody Tapscott, Ricky Chen and June Chen, developed this idea further.

Their design for the pacemaker device has a base station located under the skin, which charges via radio frequency and communicates with the network of minuscule chips, each the size of a grain of rice. When the base station senses a problem with the heart’s rhythm, it can automatically trigger the embedded chips to release a jolt of energy timed to re-establish the heart’s normal rhythm.

"It’s a master-slave network," Maguire said. "Once you have these chips positioned within the heart and covered over by scar tissue, they would communicate with the aggregator — a bigger board that has an RFID reader, takes in all the data, processes it and relays it back to the chips."

3D printing was used to put together an initial demonstration for the device, and we've reported before on the way that the medical field is changing with the help of innovative new 3D printed medical devices. A 3D printed heart was part of their system that used light traces, triggered by programmed anomalies, and sensor-simulator chips that detected these anomalies and sent data to the base station via radio frequency. The station then commanded the stimulators to release timed jolts to adjust the heart’s rhythm. This simulated the way the real system would work, delivering 25 nanojoule charges upon detection of problems, in order to stimulate the heart’s muscles.

The network of chips and sensors operated using a machine learning program to process the real-time data that was being gathered. Behnaam Aazhang, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Yingyan Lin, a Texas Instruments visiting research assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, contributed to this part of the project. The Love and Pace team also enlisted the help of faculty advisers Joseph Cavallaro, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Gary Woods, a professor in the practice of computer technology and electrical and computer engineering, along with Texas Heart Institute cardiologists Dr. Mehdi Razavi and Dr. Brian Greet.

 (source: Rice)

This proof-of-concept is just the first phase on the long journey to eventually developing a working prototype of this next-generation pacemaker. The project will be part of Rice’s Vertically Integrated Projects program, and future students will continue the work that has been started by the Love and Pace team.

(source: Rice) 



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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