Battery-free pacemaker in the works

A replica of a human heart, constructed of gel, being shown at an European Society of Cardiology meeting in 2013. Swiss engineers from the University of Bern's cardiovascular engineering group say that their technology for a prototype battery-less pacemaker is still being developed, and not scheduled for human testing yet.
PHOTO: Battery-free pacemaker in the works

BARCELONA - Swiss engineers, famous for making the world's finest watches, are turning their hands to cardiology with a prototype battery-less pacemaker based on a self-winding wristwatch.

Current pacemakers, which help the heart beat more regularly, offer a lifeline for many patients with cardiac problems, but the battery power is a limiting factor, as replacing them requires surgical intervention.

Adrian Zurbuchen of the University of Bern's cardiovascular engineering group built a device, using automatic clockwork first developed for pocket watches by Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet in 1777.

In the same way that an automatic watch winds itself when it moves on the wrist, the clockwork pacemaker generates electrical current using the movement of heart muscle. To do this, it is stitched directly onto the heart.

So far, the experimental system has been tested only on pigs, Mr Zurbuchen told the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona yesterday. The research is still at an early stage and there is, as yet, no schedule for human testing.