The previous experiments that were undertaken had shown that chemicals and electrodes that were implanted in the spine may take on the role of the brain and stimulate the required nerves that would cause the rats’ legs to move involuntarily when the animal was placed upon a treadmill.
This new information is the first study of its kind to show a gadget that can help rats to walk again and also be tolerated by the body. Prior to this, scientists have battled to come up with a device that will lie alongside the spine or brain, because both of these organs are surrounded by a protective tissue which the hard surface of implants will rub against, thereby causing inflammation and scar tissue.
The new gadget is both flexible and stretchy enough that it could be placed directly onto the spinal cord. The device closely imitates the mechanical properties of living tissue. The really interesting part about this device, is that it can simultaneously deliver electric impulses and also drugs which can activate cells. The new implant is constructed from silicon and then covered with gold electric conducting tracks, which can be stretched. The electrodes on the device are made from silicon and platinum microbeads that also can bend in multidirectional ways without breaking.
The scientists are planning to move towards clinical trials in humans within the next few years.
[Image via telegraph]