Steadying the (Heart) Beat

Published on 
February 28, 2014

By Jennifer Jing, MS, media liaison and science writer, Marketing Communications, Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Steadying the (Heart) Beat

For our final blog post in recognition of heart month research, let’s talk about beats—heart beats!

Pacemakers and Little Hearts

When the familiar “lub dub” of our heart goes awry, pacemakers help steady the beat. But their traditional design—with a long leading wire, electrode and separate battery unit– doesn't help a heart that is still developing inside the womb.

To restore the heart’s rhythm in utero, a group from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and USC is developing the first fetal pacemaker. With project support from the Southern California Center for Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics (CTIP), this pacemaker is designed to be safely implanted without surgical incisions (this process is pictured in the image). The pacemaker’s battery can be recharged from outside the mother, ensuring that the device will stay in place and keep working for the duration of a normal pregnancy.

While it’s meant for little hearts, this pacemaker can help patients of all ages. Its fast and safe implantation offers another way to restore rhythm in patients when open-heart surgery is too dangerous.

To see what other devices CTIP is supporting, check out http://www.scctip.com/projects/.