Elasticated implant 'can help restore movement after spinal injury'

Engineering

A new type of implant has been developed that could potentially help to restore the ability to walk in those paralysed by spinal cord injuries.

Created by a team at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, the implant was built using elastic silicone and contains wiring made from microcracked gold, allowing it to accommodate the movement of the nervous system and body.

“A new elasticated implant has shown potential to restore movement to people left paralysed as a result of spinal cord injuries.“

In studies using rats, it has been shown to be capable of sending electrical signals directly to the spinal cord, allowing them to regain a range of movement following prior paralysis.

This offers numerous advantages over wired electrodes linked directly to the spinal cord, which are not a viable long-term option, or older inflexible implants that can cause damage and inflammation due to their stiffness.

Professor Stephanie Lacour, a member of the scientific team behind the implant, told BBC News: "In terms of using the implant in people, it's not going to be tomorrow, we've developed dedicated materials that need approval, which will take time. But we really believe this will be a solid and robust technology for humans."

Innovations such as this could ensure that spinal cord injuries are no longer considered to be permanently debilitating in future.

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