Researchers from France have revealed an innovative cyborg-like implant that brings optimism to patients who suffer from paralysis. The e-Dura implant made rats with seemingly hopeless spinal injuries capable of walking.
Scientists developed a slim strip, which contains electrodes and can be placed on the spinal cord. The implant can deliver impulses and chemicals to the brain. The tested rats, which were paralyzed, were implanted with the device and after a few weeks of coaching, they were able to walk again.
Clinical trials of humans are expected to begin in a few years. The team from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne believes that the ingenious thin implant will also help humans and will be fully functional for up to ten years, after which a replacement will be needed.
The e-Dura implant gets its name from the soft tissue around the spine, called dura mater. The implant can mimic the dura mater and the body does not detect and reject it. Stéphanie Lacour, study co-author and EPFL Bertarelli Chair in Neuroprosthetic Technology, explains that the e-Dura has the same physical proprieties as the dura mater, thus it is able to remain a long time implanted in the body.
E-Dura brings new hope and possibilities for treatment for people who suffered spinal cord injuries, followed by paralysis, and other people with neurological conditions.
Although there have been numerous researches made in this particular field, e-Dura is the first successful implant so far. Scientists have discovered that a mixture of chemical and electrodes that could be implanted into the cortex or spinal cord, and could mimic nerves’ roles and potentially restore their function. However past experiments were doomed to failure as most of the time the implant was perceived by the body as a foreign object and rejected. In such cases laboratory rats would start moving involuntarily.
What made the e-Dura implant capable of going unnoticed by the body was its silicon exterior and gold electronic conductors, which are able to extend as necessary without breaking, as the spine bends.
The device’s primary purpose was to aid paralysis patients, but the innovative technology of e-Dura is believed to be of help in the treatment of other neurological conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, or pain management, to name a few.
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