Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Heart

Illustrations of a human heart doing the left ventricular twist (left), and the Harvard mo...

When you think of a beating heart, you probably just picture it flexing in and out, sort of like a rubber ball being squeezed by an invisible hand. In fact, though, its motion is more similar to that of a dish rag being wrung out, with the top of the organ twisting in a clockwise direction while the bottom contracts counterclockwise. It's known as the left ventricular twist, and scientists have now replicated it using artificial muscles. The research could lead to better-functioning cardiac implants, among other things.  Read More

A beating rabbit's heart, fitted with one of the membranes (Photo: Igor Efimov)

When it comes to monitoring the electrical activity of the heart, or delivering electrical stimulation to it (as in the case of pacemakers), most current technologies rely on electrodes that make contact with the organ in just a few locations. That doesn't necessarily provide a very detailed picture of what's going on, nor does it deliver stimulation all that evenly. Now, scientists have created a sensor-laden three-dimensional elastic membrane that can be pulled over the whole heart, to provide a large number of contact points.  Read More

Built in three pieces using a flexible filament, the 3D-printed heart reportedly took arou...

3D printing technology has assisted in life-saving heart surgery performed on a 14-month old child, with engineers at the University of Louisville producing a printed model of the child's heart prior to the procedure that enabled doctors to better prepare for the operation.  Read More

The business end of the probe, built around a single disc-like chip

Imagine if you were trying to clear rubble out of a tunnel, but you could only see that tunnel from the side, instead of looking straight into it. Well, that's currently what it's like for doctors who are trying to see inside patients' blocked coronary blood vessels using ultrasound. Soon, however, a tiny catheter-based probe may give them a 3D real-time forward view from inside those vessels – or from inside the heart itself – not unlike that seen by the microscopic submarine crew in the movie Fantastic Voyage.  Read More

HLAA sets to an elastic consistency, and bonds with cardiac tissue

A hole in the heart is never a good thing, so when an infant is born with such a defect, doctors have to act quickly to fix it. Unfortunately, both sutures and staples can damage the heart tissue, plus it takes too long to apply sutures. Existing surgical adhesives have their own drawbacks in that they can be toxic, and they typically become unstuck in wet, dynamic environments such as the heart. As a result, infants often require subsequent operations to "replug" the hole. Now, however, scientists have developed a sort of superglue for the heart, that quickly and securely bonds patches to holes.  Read More

Renderings of an implanted Carmat artificial heart

Last Wednesday in Paris, a 75 year-old man received an artificial heart. That in itself might not be newsworthy, as such devices have been in use since the early 80s. In this case, however, the gadget in question was the first Carmat bioprosthetic artificial heart to ever be implanted in a human. According to its inventor, cardiac surgeon Alain Carpentier, it's the world's first self-regulating artificial heart.  Read More

The prototype sensor belt developed by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technolog...

Although electrocardiograms (ECGs) can help predict cardiac emergencies as much as several months before a potentially life-threatening episode, this usually requires being hooked up to an ECG machine for a period of time at a doctor's office or hospital. A new sensor belt prototype allows an ECG to be recorded around the clock for up to six months, increasing the chances a problem will be discovered and treated before an emergency strikes.  Read More

The Nanostim pacemaker, with a Euro coin for scale

Ordinarily, a pacemaker is surgically implanted below the collarbone, where it sits in a sizable pocket under the skin. Electrical leads run from it to the heart, allowing it to monitor the rhythm of the heartbeat, and deliver electrical pulses to adjust that rhythm as needed. Now, however, Minnesota-based St. Jude Medical has announced upcoming availability of "the world’s first and only commercially available leadless pacemaker." Known as the Nanostim, it's reportedly less than 10 percent the size of a regular pacemaker, and is inserted directly into the heart via a minimally-invasive procedure.  Read More

Rice University researchers use the heartbeat as a random signal generator to make medical...

Remotely hacking a pacemaker or insulin pump should be impossible, but sadly it isn't. It puts the millions of people who use wireless medical implants at potential risk. Researchers at Rice University believe they have a solution: a touch-based device that will use a person's own heartbeat as a password to permit or deny access to their implant.  Read More

One of the Tel Aviv coiled heart tissue fibers

When a heart attack occurs, the resulting dead heart tissue is replaced with scar tissue that's incapable of expanding and contracting. This means that the victim is left with a permanently weakened heart. Numerous studies are now looking at ways in which the dead tissue can instead be replaced with functioning cardiac tissue. While most of the lab-grown tissue created so far has used straight fibers as a base, scientists at Tel Aviv University recently had another idea – if the tissue is supposed to expand and contract, then why not make it using springy fibers?  Read More

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