Optically Pumped Magnetometer to Measure Electric Activity of Fetal Hearts

Assessing the electrical activity of a fetal heart is extremely difficult, since ECG is not an option. Ultrasound is not a substitute for electrical conduction study like ECG, so there’s always a search for a better alternative. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen believe that a new technology they’re working will give clinicians an unprecedented diagnostic tool for fetal cardiac assessment.

Published in journal Nature Scientific Reports, the technology relies on a cloud of cesium atoms that is very sensitive to magnetic fields, and therefore able to discern faint electromagnetic signals coming from the fetal heart. While these so-called optically pumped magnetometers have been developed in the past, they required to either be cooled to near absolute zero or be heated to high temperatures. The new magnetometer from University of Copenhagen works at room temperature and is therefore much more applicable to being integrated into clinical equipment.

The device was tested on guinea pig hearts suspended behind a thick layer of plexiglass. The new instrument was placed near the plexiglass and allowed to monitor the magnetic fields created by the heart. The researchers were able to modulate the hearts’ rhythms in order to test whether their system was able to detect any arrhythmias, which it did exceptionally well.

The researchers believe that their technology will be turned into a medical device and tested on humans within three years. Though ambitious, the researchers may not be experts on the medical device regulatory process, but we wish them well and hope this technology does prove itself as soon as possible.

Study in Scientific Reports: Magnetocardiography on an isolated animal heart with a room-temperature optically pumped magnetometer…

Via: University of Copenhagen…