When someone has a heart attack, their heart is permanently left with a section of non-beating scar tissue. Even though the rest of the organ may still function, that one bit can disrupt its rhythm, potentially leading to disorders such as arrhythmia.
Several groups are developing “heart patches” to help address the situation, with one of the latest coming from Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Britain’s Imperial College London. Unlike some others, it can be attached to the heart without the use of stitches.
The base material of the flexible patch is chitosan, a polysaccharide derived from crustacean shells. On top of that is a layer of polyaniline, an electrically-conductive polymer. Added to it is phytic acid, a plant-derived chemical that keeps the polyaniline in its conductive state. This is an important addition, as most conductive polymers ordinarily lose their conductivity shortly after being exposed to body fluids.