Scientists in France have developed a potentially life-altering technology for patients with paralysis in the form of a “cyborg”-like spinal implant, which could eventually help people walk again.
The thin prosthetic ribbon embedded with electrodes known as an “e-Dura” is attached to the spinal cord and delivers electrical signals and drugs, essentially acting as the brain to activate cells and stimulate nerves. The prosthetic has already been tested on paralyzed rats, who were able to walk again after weeks of training.
Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne overcame the problem of potential rubbing or scarring damage to sensitive spinal tissue with the e-Dura’s soft, flexible design, which copies the movement of the surrounding sensitive tissue.
The e-Dura is made of stretchable silicon, gold conductors and platinum microbeads, all which can be bent or flexed. Researchers estimate the device could last inside the human body for a decade before needing to be replaced.
“This opens up new therapeutic possibilities for patients suffering from neurological trauma or disorders, particularly individuals who have become paralyzed following spinal cord injury,” research lead professor Stéphanie Lacour said in a Telegraph report.
The researchers hope to take the tech to human trials within a few years.
“Soft flexible nerves connected to unyielding silicon and metal — the combination has spawned many a Hollywood cyborg,” Robert Service wrote in Science, where the research was published, according to The Telegraph. “The implants Lacour’s team created still have to be wired to the outside world to operate, but she and her colleagues are designing wireless versions of the technology.”
“Watch out, Hollywood, reality is catching up.”