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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) – What if high risk patients could get a warning before experiencing heart attack symptoms?

That's the kind of groundbreaking research going on at Washington University. It's part of the array of medical explorations involving 3-D printers across the country.

Sarah Gutbrod, a PhD candidate in bioengineering, is part of a research team developing custom-fitted implantable devices that might one day warn of a heart attack.

Researchers print a 3D membrane made of a soft-flexible material precisely shaped for a specific heart.

Tiny sensors are printed onto the membrane. These allow the circuits to stretch up to 20 percent without breaking, so your electrical connection stays intact as the heart moves. This lets you measure precisely how the heart is performing.

One day, they could even wirelessly warn of a heart attack before someone experiences any pain, according to Dr. Igor Efimov, a bioengineering professor.

"And this could be sent as a signal to the patient, him or herself or physical," he said, "and a heart attack could be prevented by either changing physical stress of what you're doing at the moment or by taking a particular medication."

Washington University is working with the University of Illinois on this study, which is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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