Pigs Help Researchers Develop “Pacemaker for Life”

Researchers in China and the U.S. believe they have successfully trialed a self-powered pacemaker in adult pigs ( Jo Windmann )

It’s well-known pigs and human organs have similar characteristics, especially hearts.

Pig hearts are about the same size as human hearts, which is why scientists used them to develop a battery-free pacemaker that generates energy from the pig’s heart as it beats. The discovery could help pave the way to a successful “implant for life” in humans suffering from heart defects.

There are millions of people who rely on pacemakers to help regulate their heartbeats. Even with recent technological advances, pacemaker batteries can be bulky and might need replacement several times over the lifespan of the device.

Researchers in China and the U.S. believe they have successfully trialed a self-powered pacemaker in adult pigs. The implantable generator sits on the surface of the heart and bends with each heartbeat, generating electricity from kinetic energy.

"(The pacemaker) was fully implanted in adult pigs and all of the energy for cardiac pacing is reclaimed from the heart-beating energy of the same animal," Zhou Li, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead study author, told AFP.

Incredibly, the energy retained from each heartbeat turned out to be higher than the energy demands of most pacemakers used in humans.

"It could be an 'implant for life'," Zhou said. "This is our aim and the final goal of the scientific research in the field."

The team will need to examine the idea for long-term safety and durability before human versions can be developed. Other applications of this technology could include self-charging devices and “smart” clothing.

 

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