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GW and Northwestern researchers develop dissolvable heart monitor

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Two researchers won $25,000 to innovate ways to reduce the environmental impact of the solar farms that provides more than half of GW’s electricity.

Researchers at the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science and Northwestern University developed a dissolvable device to treat and monitor heart disease, according to a joint research study published last week.

Researchers in the study, including lead author and GW doctorate student, Zhiyuan Chen, said the new device is a system of soft transparent microelectrode arrays or a system of sensors and actuators that can conduct more “complicated investigations” of the heart which traditional heart monitors, like pacemakers, are unable to do. Physicians can place the device on different sections of the heart and it will send information about the status of the heart back to physicians in real time, according to the study.

Researchers made the postage-stamp sized device with materials approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make it compatible with the human body, allowing it to dissolve harmlessly in the body after it performs treatment, the study states. In contrast, medical professionals must surgically remove pacemakers a small device which sends electrical pulses to treat abnormal rhythm patterns in the heart, according to the study.

The study states physicians can use the device to monitor a patient’s heart rhythm and rate post-surgery or after experiencing a heart attack. Future testing could allow the device to temporarily restore standard heart rhythm, according to the study.

The study states said the device is not meant to replace a pacemaker because the device is a “temporary” solution while a pacemaker is intended for long term monitoring and stimulation of the heart.

The study states that the device is best used to detect which areas of the heart are functioning properly and which are not. While a pacemaker can only show overall heart rate and rhythm, the dissolvable device can optically map essential cardiac parameters, meaning it can show intricate details of the heart anatomy and allow researchers to learn more about diseases and post-surgical risks that affect the heart like myocardial infarction and ischemia, according to the study.

“This technology has the potential to advance the miniaturization and large-scale integration of dissolvable electronic systems, enabling new possibilities for broader and more diverse patient care and therapeutic functionalities,” Chen said in the study.

The study states that researchers have tested the device on rodents in the lab, but future testing is necessary before approving the device for clinical use.

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About the Contributor
Fiona Bork, Assistant News Editor
Fiona Bork is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication from San Diego, California. She is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 assistant news editor for the Student Life beat.
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