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Bioelectronic Mesh Grows With Cardiac Tissues for Comprehensive Heart Monitoring

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 22 Mar 2024
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Image: The bioelectronic mesh can measure electrical signal and movement of cardiac tissue at the same time (Photo courtesy of UMass Amherst)
Image: The bioelectronic mesh can measure electrical signal and movement of cardiac tissue at the same time (Photo courtesy of UMass Amherst)

Heart disease remains the top cause of death worldwide. The ability to monitor heart tissue in real time is significantly limited. Implanting sensors in the heart is risky, and the heart's complexity—its mechanical actions of pumping blood and the electrical signals controlling those actions—demands monitoring of more than one characteristic at a time. However, traditional sensors can only track one feature, and a device capable of measuring both would be too large, potentially affecting the heart's function. Until now, no single sensor could assess both the heart's mechanical and electrical activities without affecting its operation. Now, researchers have created a bioelectronic mesh embedded with graphene sensors that can record the electrical signals and movements of cardiac tissue at the same time.

The tissue-like bioelectronic mesh system developed by a team of engineers led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Amherst, MA, USA) is integrated with an array of atom-thin graphene sensors and can simultaneously measure both the electrical signal and the physical movement of cells in lab-grown human cardiac tissue. This breakthrough allows for observation of the heart's development, providing insights into how its mechanical and electrical functions change over time. The device consists of two key components: a three-dimensional cardiac microtissue (CMT) derived from human stem cells that closely resembles a living human heart, and graphene, a one-atom-thick pure-carbon substance known for its electrical conductivity and piezoresistive properties. This means graphene can detect electrical activity and changes in resistance even when it is stretched, all without disrupting the heart's operations.

Embedded in a soft, stretchable, porous mesh scaffold that mimics human tissue, these graphene sensors can non-invasively attach to cardiac tissue, remaining stable and conductive over time. This allows for continuous monitoring of the CMT's development. This device is a significant advancement for cardiac disease research and the study of drug therapies' potential side effects. Going forward, the researchers aim to expand this technology for broader applications, including in vivo monitoring, to gather precise data to combat heart disease.

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