The team of professors Stéphanie Lacour and Grégoire Courtine have developed the e-Dura implant that’s designed specifically for implantation on the surface of the brain or spinal cord. The small device closely imitates the mechanical properties of living tissue, and can simultaneously deliver electric impulses and pharmacological substances. The risks of rejection and/or damage to the spinal cord have been drastically reduced.
So-called “surface implants” have reached a roadblock; they cannot be applied long term to the spinal cord or brain, beneath the nervous system’s protective envelope, otherwise known as the “dura mater,” because when nerve tissues move or stretch, they rub against these rigid devices. After a while, this repeated friction causes inflammation, scar tissue buildup, and rejection.
The researchers tested the device prototype by applying their rehabilitation protocol—which combines electrical and chemical stimulation – to paralyzed rats. Not only did the implant prove its biocompatibility, but it also did its job perfectly, allowing the rats to regain the ability to walk on their own again after a few weeks of training.
EPFL researcher’s neural implant can make paralyzed rats walk again. Soft and stretchable, it is the first of its kind that can be implanted directly on the spinal chord, without damaging it. Described in Science, this new generation device called e-Dura combines electrical and chemical stimulation.