First bio­elec­tronic medicine re­vealed

The biodegrad­able im­plant uses elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion to speed up nerve re­cov­ery

How It Works - - GLOBAL EYE -

Re­searchers at North­west­ern Univer­sity and Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity School of Medicine have cre­ated a biodegrad­able im­plant that pulses with elec­tric­ity to as­sist in heal­ing dam­aged pe­riph­eral nerves in rats. The com­pletely wire­less de­vice – as thin as a sheet of pa­per – has demon­strated promis­ing re­sults at im­prov­ing the re­cov­ery of mus­cle strength and con­trol. The im­plant is thin and flex­i­ble and can wrap around an in­jured nerve. It then de­liv­ers elec­tri­cal pulses at spe­cific times over the next few days. Af­ter about two weeks the im­plant is nat­u­rally ab­sorbed by the body. The in­ven­tion is the first in a move­ment to­wards bio­engi­neered med­i­cal tech­nolo­gies for hu­mans. These are ex­pected to pro­vide ther­apy and treat­ment over a pe­riod of time di­rectly at the site where it is needed in or­der to be ef­fec­tive and re­duce the risks and side-ef­fects pa­tients face when hav­ing a per­ma­nent im­plant. “These en­gi­neered sys­tems pro­vide ac­tive, ther­a­peu­tic func­tion in a pro­gram­mable, dosed for­mat and then nat­u­rally dis­ap­pear into the body, with­out a trace,” ex­plained North­west­ern Univer­sity's John A Rogers, co-se­nior au­thor of the study, in a press re­lease. “This ap­proach to ther­apy al­lows one to think about op­tions that go be­yond drugs and chem­istry.” The tech­nol­ogy has not yet been tested in hu­mans, but the re­searchers are hope­ful that it may of­fer a new op­tion for nerve in­jury pa­tients in the fu­ture. Elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion is al­ready used dur­ing surgery and is known to aid re­cov­ery, but un­til now there has never been a way to sup­ply the cur­rents while heal­ing is still in progress. This tech­nol­ogy could rev­o­lu­tionise post-surgery re­cov­er­ies. “We know that elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion dur­ing surgery helps, but once the surgery is over the win­dow for in­ter­ven­ing is closed,” com­mented co-se­nior au­thor Dr Wil­son Ray. “With this de­vice we’ve shown that elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion given on a sched­uled ba­sis can fur­ther en­hance nerve re­cov­ery.”

The im­plant is the same size as a small coin

The im­plant slowly de­grades in­side the body af­ter its job is done

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