What if the shock of a defibrillator could be avoided? If a gentle electric nudge, a few minutes prior, can prevent a massive discharge later? MIT’s Technology Review profiles a company fighting v-fib, with less voltage:
Defibrillators attempt to resynchronize the cells by electrically shocking them, either through electrode paddles applied externally to the skin or through conducting leads that sit inside the heart, connected to an ICD. However, although ICDs have been effective in treating fibrillation, the experience is extremely unpleasant. “It’s like dropping a bowling ball on someone’s chest from a height of two meters,” says Mark Spano, a “chaotician” who has made several studies of fibrillation at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Silver Spring, MD.
Biophan’s algorithms build on chaos theory, which has been used previously to highlight the early signs of VF. This earlier research suggested that by detecting changes in the nonlinear or chaotic signals within an EKG, it’s possible to sense the first signs of VF. Then by applying a controlled but noisy or chaotic signal back into the heart, a normal rhythm can be regained and VF avoided altogether.
So far, the company has patented only the algorithms, which is the way cardiac companies work, says Weiner. Now that the patents have been issued, Biophan is seeking collaborators from the industry to put the theory into practice.
We first heard about this promising alternative about a decade ago — chaos theory and neural networks could pick up minor changes of impending rhythm disturbances, in EKG’s, EEG’s and more. It’s a little disappointing to learn this technology is still in the early, chaotic stage itself.
More from Mark Spano’s research…
(BioPhan, the company hoping to capitalize on this intellectual property, seems to be pretty quiet about it on its website…)