Chinese scientists report that they have developed a tiny implant and self-powered sensor that can enter a patient’s heart and monitor its beats and pressure and alert for any potential heart failure.

Endocardial pressure is a key parameter for assessing cardiac function and has important clinical implications for patients at risk for heart failure. The term endocardium refers to the innermost layer of tissue that lines the chambers of the heart.

Endocardial pressure is commonly monitored by an invasive, expensive cardiac catheterization technique, which is not feasible for long-term, continuous data collection.

Scientists with the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, along with cardiovascular specialists with Beijing’s Beihang University and the Shanghai-based Second Military Medical University, have developed prototypes of a miniaturized sensor that can enter the endocardium of a patient’s heart with a short, minimally invasive procedure, according to Xinhua.

The sensor is also self-powered, with a triboelectric nanogenerator capable of converting bio-mechanical energy into electricity for monitoring pressure and transmitting data in real time for precise diagnosis and treatment.

It can also detect ventricular fibrillation and ventricular premature contraction.

Screenshot 2018-12-04 at 6.44.13 PM
One of the prototypes of the sensor. The actual product can be even smaller in size. Photo: Handout

Measuring 1.5 centimeters in length and 1cm in width, the device has been used on mammals with reliable performance, the tripartite research team said, and it is comparable with purpose-built surgical catheters for minimally invasive implantation.

The research and experiment data have been published in the scientific journal Advanced Functional Materials.

China has been encouraging the development of more miniature implantable medical sensors for monitoring and diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases, as the population ages and the toll of heart diseases is on a steady rise nationwide.

A “heart failure” does not necessarily have to be an acute myocardial infarction – the term may also refer to undetected heart arrhythmia or a situation when a patient’s heart is incapable of pumping sufficient blood to meet the body’s needs. Typical symptoms include dyspnea, weakness and fatigue.