A team at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland has announced the development of flexible spinal implants that could help paralysed people walk again.
The implant is called the eDura for “electronic dura mater”. The dura mater is the soft connective tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
Traditional implants are more rigid and cause damage to surrounding nerve tissue, resulting in scarring and ultimately in rejection. eDura is similar to the dura mater in elasticity and capacity for deformation. This minimizes friction and inflammation and improves long-term performance.
The eDura implant can be implanted on the surface of the brain or the spinal cord. It can deliver electrical impulses through its silicon/gold construction. It is also capable of releasing pharmacological substances / neuro-transmitters to the spinal cord.
The eDura has a silicone substrate. Electrical impulse transmission is through gold pathways terminating in electrodes made of silicone/platinum composite microbeads. A separate microfluidic channel is provided for chemical stimulation.
eDura has enabled paralyzed rats to walk; clinical trials in humans are scheduled to start in June 2015. In rats, the implant was used upto 2 months without damaging the nervous tissue.
In addition to paralysis, this device could be useful in epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and pain management.