Cyborg Medicine: New, Biodegradable Electronic Implant May Heal Nerve Damage

Wednesday, 10 October 2018 - 11:24AM
Technology
Medical Tech
Wednesday, 10 October 2018 - 11:24AM
Cyborg Medicine: New, Biodegradable Electronic Implant May Heal Nerve Damage
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Composite adapted from Pixabay
Between new techniques to de-age cells and transplant faces, modern medical technology has come a long way. Now, it appears that researchers have found a way to regrow damaged nerves using a new implant that stimulates the tissue around it with electrical impulses. Here's the really cool part: the implant is charged wirelessly, about the size of a coin, and will break down naturally into the body after its purpose is served. The findings were published this week in Nature Medicine.

Scientists have found that nerve tissue can be encouraged to create new cells to repair damage when exposed to carefully controlled electrical pulses, and surgeons have been using electrical stimulation during surgery to help repair damaged nerves for a long time. However, it's always been perceived as a temporary opportunity. Dr. Wilson Ray, one of the authors of the new study detailing the use of the new implant, described how this new research suggests otherwise. "We know that electrical stimulation during surgery helps, but once the surgery is over, the window for intervening is closed. With this device, we've shown that electrical stimulation given on a scheduled basis can further enhance nerve recovery."

The researchers tested four groups of rats, three of which had the device implanted near their damaged sciatic nerves. One group received electrical stimulation for one day, another received stimulation for three days, and a third received six days of electrical stimulation, while the a control group received none. The results were clear: electrical stimulation made a significant impact on nerve recovery when compared to rats who received none, and more stimulation produced better results. "Before we did this study," said Dr. Ray, "we weren't sure that longer stimulation would make a difference, and now that we know it does we can start trying to find the ideal time frame to maximize recovery."

It's estimated that 20 million people in the US suffer from peripheral nerve damage. With this technology, the medical field has a new tool to deal with it.
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