A Bioelectronic device developed by material scientists, engineers and neurosurgeons at Northwestern and Washington universities has delivered regular pulses of electricity to peripheral nerves in rats after a surgical repair process.
Bioelectronic medicine is said to provide treatment and therapy over a period of time, reducing the risks and side effects associated with permanent implants. The developers claim their wireless device the size of a small coin, accelerated growth of nerves in rat’s legs and enhanced the recovery of muscle strength and control before it was absorbed into the body.
“Bioelectronic device speeds up the regeneration of nerves“
“This system provides an active therapeutic function in a dosed format and then disappears from the body without a trace. This type of approach allows us to think about options that go beyond drugs” said Northwestern’s John A Rogers, a co-senior author of the study.
The findings are yet to be tried on humans, but they offer a promising therapeutic option for in the future. Currently, electrical stimulation is given during surgery only, but this device could continue the stimulation post-surgery, and aid recovery further.
“We know that electrical stimulation is applied during surgery, but this opportunity is closed once surgery has been completed,” said Dr Wilson ‘Zack’ Ray, co-senior author and an associate professor of neurosurgery, biomedical engineering and orthopaedic surgery at Washington University. “This device has shown that electrical stimulation administered after surgery can further enhance the recovery of the nerves.”
Controlled wirelessly by a transmitter outside the body, the thin flexible device works by wrapping around the injured nerve and delivers electrical pulses at scheduled points for up to two weeks, before it degrades in the body. Researchers also discovered that electrical stimulation after surgery was better than none at all, and the more stimulation that was received, the quicker and more thoroughly the nerve signalling and muscle strength was recovered.
“We were unsure if longer stimulation would make a difference.” said Dr Wilson “but now that we know it does, we are looking into finding out the ideal time frame that is needed to maximise recovery.”See all the latest jobs in Service Engineering