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A graphene “tattoo” could help hearts keep their beat

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Some tattoos truly make the heart go pitter-patter.

In rats, a graphene “tattoo” stuck to the heart could treat an abnormally sluggish beat. Like a futuristic pacemaker, the device delivered electrical signals that kept the heart pumping properly, scientists report online March 25 in Advanced Materials.

The electronic device is currently a proof of concept, but a version for use in human hearts could be ready for testing within five years, estimates Igor Efimov, a cardiovascular engineer at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Efimov and his colleagues have worked for years creating implantable devices that conform to the body. A main challenge is how to marry rigid electronics with soft, sometimes throbbing tissues. For most current pacemakers, doctors thread electrodes on long wires through a vein inside the heart. Every time the heart beats, some 100,000 times per day, the wires flex. Enough flexing, and the device eventually breaks, Efimov says. One solution is to use ultrathin materials that ride along with the heart’s movements, like plastic wrap clinging to…



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