Take a look at a rabbit heart that has been kept beating outside of the body in a nutrient and oxygen-rich solution. The new cardiac device -- a thin, stretchable membrane imprinted with a spider-web-like network of sensors and electrodes -- is custom-designed to fit over the heart and contract and expand with it as it beats.

Using an inexpensive 3-D printer, biomedical engineers have developed a custom-fitted, implantable device with embedded sensors that could transform treatment and prediction of cardiac disorders. The 3-D elastic membrane is made of a soft, flexible, silicon material that is precisely shaped to match the heart’s outer layer of the wall. Current technology is two-dimensional and cannot cover the full surface of the epicardium or maintain reliable contact for continual use without sutures or adhesives. The team can then print tiny sensors onto the membrane that can precisely measure temperature, mechanical strain and pH, among other markers, or deliver a pulse of electricity in cases of arrhythmia.


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