A Bionic Patch Could Keep Your Heart Ticking

A new 'cyborg' patch that integrates biology and electronics could regulate and protect your heart

An innovative concept from Tel Aviv University, the bionic patch in question is explored in the latest study published in Nature Materials. It's composed of a combination of organic and inorganic parts - electronics, polymers and cardiac cells  

"With this heart patch, we have integrated electronics and living tissue. It's very science fiction, but it's already here, and we expect it to move cardiac research forward in a big way. Until now, we could only engineer organic cardiac tissue, with mixed results. Now we have produced viable bionic tissue, which ensures that the heart tissue will function properly"

Credit: Tel Aviv University

The patch design incorporates living cells and is composed of a thick layer including sensitive electronics that respond and regulate cardiac activity with electrical stimulation. Polymers combined within the patch can release growth factors or specific drugs in response to stimuli, ensuring heart function remains healthy. 

"Imagine that a patient is just sitting at home, not feeling well. His physician will be able to log onto his computer and this patient's file. He can intervene to properly pace the heart and activate drugs to regenerate tissue from afar. The longer-term goal is for the cardiac patch to be able to regulate its own welfare. In other words, if it senses inflammation, it will release an anti-inflammatory drug. If it senses a lack of oxygen, it will release molecules that recruit blood-vessel-forming cells to the heart"

Implementing artificial solutions to biological problems isn't a new concept. Here is an example of a temporary artificial heart

1 in 4 patients in the US waiting for a heart transplant will sadly die before receiving one, and there is a dire need to improve cardiac treatments as a whole. As other technologies become ever more intricate and advanced, concepts like this could well become more commonplace. A fusion of biology and electronics may represent the next step in both healthcare and optimisation, and could be applied in theoretically multiple regions of the body. This isn't science fiction anymore, it's happening. 

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