The video above is showing a rabbit’s heart beating perfectly outside of the animal’s body. The circuit lined, stretchable membrane covering it is allowing it to stay alive and to pump blood on its own. This incredible device was developed by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis by scanning the heart and creating a 3D printed model to act as a mold from which the membrane is cast and then integrated with the actual organ. It could become available to human hearts within the next 10 to 15 years.
This device is not just a custom-made pacemaker. According to University of Illinois’ materials researcher John Rorgers, co-leader of the team who has developed this device, it’s like an artificial pericardium, the natural membrane that covers the heart:
“But this artificial pericardium is instrumented with high quality, man-made devices that can sense and interact with the heart in different ways that are relevant to clinical cardiology.”
Washington University’s biomedical engineer Igor Efimov says that it is a huge advancement. The circuits you’re seeing are a combination of sensors that constantly track the tissues’ behavior and electrodes that precisely regulate the heart muscles movement:
“When it senses such a catastrophic event as a heart attack or arrhythmia, it can also apply a high definition therapy. So it can apply stimuli, electrical stimuli, from different locations on the device in an optimal fashion to stop this arrhythmia and prevent sudden cardiac death.”