Researchers from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) project, led by University College London, have developed a new microchip muscle stimulator implant that can exercise paralyzed leg muscles of paraplegia patients. Until now this could be done, but required an external stimulator connected with electrodes to the legs or implanted electrodes connected to an external stimulator. The new device, called Active Book, is a tiny, book-shaped unit, of which the pages fold around the nerve roots within the spinal canal. Both the electrodes and stimulator are included within the device.
“The work has the potential to stimulate more muscle groups than is currently possible with existing technology because a number of these devices can be implanted into the spinal canal”, said Professor Andreas Demosthenous. “Stimulation of more muscle groups means users can perform enough movement to carry out controlled exercise such as cycling or rowing.
The research team has overcome previous limitations by micro-packaging everything into one tiny unit. Latest laser processing technology has been used to cut tiny electrodes from platinum foil. These are then folded into a 3D shape.” The pages close in around the nerve roots. They are micro-welded to a silicon chip which is hermetically sealed to protect against water penetration, which can lead to corrosion of the electronics.
Apart from stimulating paralyzed muscles, the device could also be used to stimulate bladder muscles in incontinence and to suppress bowel spasms. It is expected to be available for pilot studies sometime next year.
Press release: New spinal implant will help people with paraplegia to exercise paralysed limbs…