3D printer could help prevent heart attack

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis believe they have come up with a way to help millions of people survive a heart attack, all thanks to a new kind of computer printer.

“I think it is a major breakthrough,” said Igor Efimov, a biomedical engineer leading the research team at the Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The breakthrough is a flexible membrane lined with dozens of sensors and electrodes which when wrapped around the heart can help prevent a heart attack, much like a pacemaker only this device is much more sensitive and accurate.

“This is custom,” Efimov said. “Exactly like if you would buy yourself a set of clothes for your own size.”

It is that exact fit which is the biggest breakthrough.

Using a 3-D printer, high quality scans of the heart are used to ‘print’ an exact replica in plastic that can then be used as a form to mold the electronic membrane, which is then inserted surgically to wrap around the patient’s heart.

“It is basically a computer that is monitoring your heart at all times, so it is a big advantage to doctors to have that information,” said Sarah Gutbrod, a graduate student working on the project, which is being done on conjunction with a team at the University of Illinois.

Efimov says he believes the device could  be in use within five to ten years.

“It does work on the human heart, we already know that,” he said. “We are just making technology the reliable, making the technology wireless, these are the two major components that will take a few years.”

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