Researchers have come up with a new implant that attaches directly onto the spine. This implant could help some paralysed people to walk again. The new implant is so successful because it imitates the soft tissue around the spine, so that the body does not reject it, as it may do with other implants. This new research has come to light following studies involving rats with severe spinal injuries and how they walked again through a ‘groundbreaking’ new cyborg-style implant.
French scientists have created a thin prosthetic ribbon that is embedded with electrodes and which lies along the spinal cord to deliver electrical impulses and drugs. The prosthetic has been described by British experts as ‘quite remarkable.’ It is soft enough to bend with tissue surrounding the backbone to avoid discomfort. The paralysed rats, which were fitted with the implant, were able to walk again after just a few weeks of training.
The research team at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne are aspiring to move to human clinical trials soon. The team believe that a device could last up to 10 years in humans before it would need to be replaced.
The new implant is called ‘e-Dura’, named after the soft tissue around the spine that is known as the dura mater. Professor Stéphanie Lacour said, “Our e-Dura implant can remain for a long period of time on the spinal cord or cortex…This opens up new therapeutic possibilities for patients suffering from neurological trauma or disorders, particularly individuals who have become paralyzed following spinal cord injury.”