Elastic implant allows paralyzed rats to move
In a recent Swiss study, paralyzed rats were able to move again after being treated with a flexible elastic band that stimulates and moves with the spine.
A research team at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne had previously discovered that chemically and electrically stimulating the spinal cord with electrodes could restore movement in paralyzed rats. Once stimulated, the rats were able to sprint, climb, and successfully navigate obstacles. But the electrodes were not a long-term option because traditional rigid implants caused harmful inflammation to the sensitive spinal pathway.
So they developed a flexible implant, one that is able to expand and contract with the spine's movement , and pulse with the blood. This better conducts electrical signals across the spine and restores movement to those with spinal cord injuries.
The “groundbreaking” implants, made of silicone and microcracked gold that can bend and stretch, worked for two months in the study - one of the longest-lasting spinal injury implants. This suggests the technology might be able to be used for long periods of time.
But don’t expect it to be used in treatment with humans any time soon. Researchers say the specific materials that were developed for the project will take some time to be approved for use. But they say they are hopeful that the technology could represent a big step forward in treating paralysis.