A ‘super plastic’ to treat heart failure

A NASA technology that was developed for an aerospace high-speed research programme is now used as an implantable device for heart surgery

heart surgeryHeart failure occurs when the heart muscle is unable to pump effectively to meet the body’s need for blood and oxygen. Cardiac resynchronisation therapy [CRT] is designed to coordinate the contraction of the heart’s two lower chambers and improve the heart’s efficiency to increase blood flow to the body.

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton created an advanced aerospace resin that was highly flexible, resistant to chemicals, and withstood extreme hot and cold temperatures. This material was biologically inert, making it suitable for medical use, including implantable devices. Here’s more on this super plastic.

What is NASA super plastic?

Super plastic is a material NASA invented for insulation in spacecrafts. It is a thin, flexible coating, which allows downsizing of a bipolar lead body. It is a multiple coat process, which improves insulation coverage. It is the thinnest lead in the world and is used in CRT.

What is the NASA spin-off technology?

NASA super plastic insulation has superior electrical isolation qualities, which enables it to position the thinnest lead body easily. The material used in CRT is a miniature implantable device designed to help patients with congestive heart failure by tweaking the contractions of the heart. It is used in bi-ventricular pacing, which is a non-surgical procedure in which a small hole is made where the lead is inserted into the hole. This device sends tiny electric pulses through fine wires that travel through the left and right ventricles of patients suffering from heart failure.

The plastic insulates a wire that connects the CRT device to a patient’s heart. Individuals with heart failure undergo surgery in which physicians must deliver lead through an inner catheter. The attached CRT implant then aids in the resynchronisation of heart contraction to increase the blood flow. While the initial placement of lead is deemed the most difficult step in CRT, the unique flexibility and heat-resistant properties of the NASA super plastic will improve the process.

Use and significance

NASA super plastic is used for CRT procedure as it helps place the lead in the correct position. The contemporaries—otherwise used in CRT—are not flexible and hence are unable to reach the desired place. NASA super plastic is the thinnest lead in the world and also easy to handle. It is biocompatible making it easy for the body to accept it. The flexibility of the wire allows easy access to the left ventricle of the heart making it easy to position it on the exact spot.

Using this plastic has made the procedure of CRT easier and less time-consuming. The success rate has also increased substantially.

Benefits of NASA super plastic

  • Reduces the effort to deliver lead to the desired target site
  • Reduces chronic lead dislodgements
  • Reduces implant time
  • Improves coronary vein sub-selection.

There are no side-effects documented in this regard till now. A patient gains normalcy within 24 hours and no precautionary measures different from a normal CRT are needed.

The procedure is non-surgical [done via catheter], and costs around Rs 4,00,000.So far this technology is only available in Indraprastha Apollo, New Delhi.


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