20 February 2018

The pacemaker is powered by glucose

Russian scientists are developing a pacemaker without batteries

Maxim Agadzhanov, Geektimes

Specialists from the Kurchatov Institute Research Center are developing a method for generating electricity from glucose, which is contained in human blood. This is necessary to create pacemakers that do not need batteries to work. Thus, patients with autonomous devices will not need to undergo surgery periodically. The capacity of the glucose power plant is very small – only 15-40 microwatts, but this is quite enough for a modern pacemaker.

"Electricity is generated by direct chemical conversion. A biofuel element is introduced into the bloodstream. This is a system with two electrodes, on one of them or on both there are biocatalysts. At the same time, organic compounds (in this case glucose) decompose at the anode, resulting in the formation of free electrons. They move along the chain to the cathode. And positively charged hydrogen atoms are sent through a special membrane located between the electrodes (it is permeable almost only for them) to the cathode, where they receive the lost electrons. Then they react with oxygen to form ordinary water," said Pavel Gotovtsev, deputy head of the Biotechnology and Bioenergy Department of the NBICS–Technologies complex of the Kurchatov Institute Research Center.

The technology is being tested in laboratory conditions on a model of some parts of the human circulatory system. A device is embedded in such a fragment and then scientists check its operation. The size of a miniature power plant is 5 cm, as mentioned above, the device produces a power of 15-40 microwatts. According to experts, a person will not feel discomfort from the presence of such a device in his body.

Source: Izvestia

They are made of biocompatible materials that do not give rejection. The calculation of specialists is to ensure that the generator and pacemaker remain in the human body until the end of life. In the future, if the current system performs well, other devices that need constant power supply will be manufactured on the basis of this technology.

Ahead of the stimulator and generator are animal tests. Then, if everything goes well, the system will begin to undergo clinical trials, which will take about 10 years. According to other experts familiar with this project, it is very promising. "This is a super interesting topic. The creation of such a technology is the blue dream of all cardiac surgeons. This will avoid unnecessary surgical interventions. However, until now, all scientists have faced one problem: it turns out a rather weak current. It is necessary either to increase its power, or to reduce the power consumption of the pacemaker. In these two directions, research is now underway all over the world," said Philip Kopylov, director of the Institute of Personalized Medicine and professor of the Department of Preventive and Emergency Cardiology of the I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University.

A number of scientists believe that such stimulants can be dangerous, because the level of glucose in a person's blood changes, and if it is too low, the pacemaker may simply stop working. Therefore, the gadget must be equipped with a battery as a backup power source.

Pacemakers have another aspect – the possibility of hacking. So, many devices that have radio frequency control can be hacked. And the control module that interacts with the stimulator itself is not protected in any way. Many manufacturers simply do not embed any identification system of the "friend-foe" type. In theory, an attacker can use a similar system to influence the operation of a receiver located near the victim's heart muscle.

The lack of protection in pacemakers has been criticized since 2013, or even earlier. Nevertheless, the manufacturers of these devices continue to produce unprotected systems that can be used by a technically trained attacker at any time.

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