The future of implantable cardiac pacemakers could come down to a newly developed device powered wirelessly that is about the size of a pin. You can credit Stanford University researchers for coming up with the next-generation technology.
Such an advance could eventually serve as a huge shot in the arm for a cardiac device industry that has now endured years of sluggish sales for implantable pacemakers. Medtronic ($MDT), Boston Scientific ($BSX) and St. Jude Medical ($STJ) have all seen sales declines in this sector, along with many of their competitors. And, in fact, Medtronic is among companies focused on developing a super tiny, self-contained wireless pacemaker, with an eye toward advancing the long-used implants to the future. Others have focused more on developing pacemakers that aren't necessarily powered wirelessly, but could wirelessly transmit data to providers.
But beyond pacemakers, the Stanford researchers also see their technology as fueling everything from new pacemakers to endoscopes, cochlear implants and super-tiny camera pills, as the Daily Mail and Medical Daily explain in articles detailing the technological advance. Their research can also be found in the journal Applied Physics Letters.
As both publications note, one of the biggest things the new Stanford device addresses is the issue of batteries. Pacemakers, among other implantable devices, require the power source and they must be replaced every 5 to 10 years or so, requiring another surgical procedure beyond implanting the device itself. With the Stanford invention, the patient could wear a small wireless battery pack to transmit power. The pack would send radio waves to a tiny coil inside the device, that in turn generates enough current to keep it going, the stories explain.
Higher-frequency radio waves can't be absorbed by the body, according to the articles. But the researchers surmounted this by using alternating magnetic and electrical fields to transmit the current deep into the body.
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