Custom-fitted, implantable devices for the heart could transform treatment and prediction of heart disorders, including a heart attack. Using a 3D printer, a research team led by Igor Efimov, PhD, School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington Univ., St. Louis, formed a 3D elastic membrane made of a soft, flexible, silicon material shaped to match the heart’s epicardium. It improves on current 2D technology, which doesn’t cover the entire surface of the epicardium or keep contact without adhesives for long-term use.

Tiny sensors can be printed onto the membrane, with the ability to measure temperature, mechanical strain, and pH. They can also deliver a pulse of electricity in cases of arrhythmia and may assist physicians with determining the heart’s health. Sensors typically consist of silicon, gallium arsenide, and gallium nitride, as well as metals, metal oxides, and polymers.

To build a 3D model of a patient’s unique heart, the heart is first imaged using an MRI or CT scan and then created with a 3D printer. The resulting membrane acts as the base of the device and can be inserted inside the heart to treat disorders.

The implantable device offers high-definition diagnostics, high-definition therapy, and many points of contact (current devices only allow for one or two points of contact with low resolution). It also makes it easier for physicians to monitor and intervene with implantable devices when necessary to provide therapy.