The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has award the University of Southern California a $1 million grant to help in the development of a tiny fetal pacemaker. The idea for the pacemaker came after a discussion between two physicians from USC’s Keck School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital LA (CHLA) about fetal heart block, a potentially fatal condition that causes an extremely slow heart rate that’s inadequate to sustain proper circulation. A pacemaker to treat fetal heart block isn’t a new concept, but currently doctors must use a standard pacemaker implanted in the mother and connected to the baby using wires. The results are often unsuccessful because babies move around the womb and can dislodge the wires.
USC’s fetal pacemaker measures just 20 millimeters and is implanted directly onto the baby’s heart using a cannula during non-invasive surgery. If successful, researchers hope that this type of pacemaker could someday be used to treat adults as well.
It’s notable that, in addition to researchers from CHLA and the Keck School of Medicine, the fetal pacemaker is being developed by Gerald Loeb, a USC biomedical engineering professor and the inventor of the BION, BioTac Robot, and other neuroprostheses we’ve covered here before.
Article from USC: How to Build a Pacemaker for Unborn Babies