Medicine: Atom-Powered Heartbeats

Pacemakers implanted in the chest to reinforce the beat of a damaged heart have been in widespread use since 1960. But the thousands of patients who live with the devices suffer a major inconvenience: they must return to the hospital every two years or so and undergo minor surgery so that the pacemaker's mercury batteries can be replaced. That drawback has spurred researchers to develop a tiny nuclear power source, to replace batteries, that could theoretically last a lifetime and still pose no radiation danger to the patient.

Last week a Frenchwoman was up...

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