A graphene probe for heart surgery has been developed by Polish start-up Heart Sense that collects an ECG signal from the heart’s surface. The start-up is led by cardiac surgeon Grzegorz Suwalski.
For some time, cardiac surgeons and cardiologists have been waiting for the results of clinical trials that would indicate the best strategy for treating patients with coronary artery disease: drugs, stent implantation or coronary artery bypass surgery. It turned out, that among patients with the most advanced disease, cardiac surgery provides the best long-term results.
Przemysław Furdal, the project manager of Heart Sense said: “Atherosclerosis prevention strategies are not effective enough to reduce the necessity of undergoing heart surgery. The number of people in the world who are living longer gives the disease more time to develop is also constantly increasing. For this reason, it is necessary to modernise coronary artery bypass surgery, further improve it’s results, and above all to reduce complications.”
Dr. Grzegorz Suwalski, the main creator of Heart Sense and president of Quantum Innovations, said: “After months of intensive work in the laboratory, we managed to develop an innovative technology and filed a patent application. Thanks to this, we know that such a device doesn’t exist in clinical practice anywhere in the world. How does it work? With the traditional method, the problem of ECG signal loss often appeared due to changes in the position of the heart during surgery. Electrodes placed as standard on the patient’s skin surface then stop receiving the signal. Our device is a thin and flexible probe that reads it directly from the surface of the beating heart. This signal is strong, stable and therefore ECG monitoring is optimal. We were able to detect myocardial infarction with our electrode during surgery on the animal model. It is a tool that significantly upgrades the work of doctors and increases the safety of operations.”
Creating a probe that would reach its goal and make a real breakthrough required the development of several pioneering solutions. A team of engineers specialising in printed electronics technology worked on technical architecture. The device aims to be light, flexible, non-invasive, compatible with any type of cardiomonitor, closely adhere to the surface of the moving heart and flawlessly conduct the ECG signal.
Dr Suwalski added: “In search of a solution, over the past six months, together with our partners, we’ve created over 30 prototypes of the Heart Sense probe. All of them were subjected to a series of six ex-vivo tests, two series of tests on the beating animal heart model and gamma irradiation resistance tests (required for sterilization). We achieved the surface of the electrode as thin as a piece of paper by applying successive layers of printed electronics with specific functionalities to a special substrate. We have achieved stability on the heart thanks to a thin adhesive layer with an organic adhesion promoter. The electrode can be repeatedly attached and detached from the heart without the risk of damage to the heart and the electrode, and the attachment itself is non-invasive, i.e. by sticking. In turn, the use of a graphene layer made the ECG signal clean, strong, stable and fully diagnostic. It was a very dynamic process, but in the end we have a device that can significantly change the perspective of performing cardiac surgery.”
The project is financed by the YouNick Mint venture capital investment fund from Poznań, Poland and the National Center for Research and Development under the BridgeAlfa program.