Scientists from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SUNY Buffalo are developing technology that will allow a leadless pacemaker to recharge itself by harvesting energy from the beating heart it is designed to regulate. M. Amin Karami, PhD, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and lead researcher for the project, has helped translate a piezoelectric system meant to keep unmanned aircraft in flight into an application that will allow a cardiac pacemaker to be perpetually functional without the need to replace its batteries.
Human trials might still be many years off, but Professor Karami is already in talks with device manufacturers about the potential applications. Testing on animals, however, could begin in less than two years. Currently, patients with pacemakers, even the leadless variety, must have surgery every 5 to 12 years in order to swap out the batteries in their devices. This update in pacemaker technology could help younger patients avoid the need for multiple surgeries, while also reducing the amount of toxic substances implanted in their bodies.