e-Dura: Flexible Neuroprosthetic to Remedy Paralysis

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Neuroprosthetics are devices that aim to replace malfunctioning biological processes in the brain. This new technology, the e-Dura, is a neuroprosthetic aimed at overcoming the effects of paralysis using a specific nano component. The e-Dura incorporates a silicon substrate, an electrode coated in silicon-platinum composite, a fluidic microchannel and gold interconnects. These gold interconnects, 35 nm in length, play an important role in the functionality of the device. This setup enables neurotransmitters and electrical impulses to be transmitted [1].

Neuroprosthetics, which can be traced back to 1973 have been on the cusp of development for years, but recently hit a speed bump: they cause too much damage to surrounding tissue due to their rigidity [2]. The new e-Dura minimizes this issue, while still serving its main function of bringing movement back to paralyzed areas, specifically demonstrated by enabling rats to walk again. This would not have been possible without the newly discovered nano-technology present in the neuroprosthetic. The substrate, a rubber platform upon which the silicon-platinum composite is embedded, and microchannel, the location on the interconnect where the impulses travel, are prepared through soft lithography and assembled by covalent bonding after oxygen plasma activation [1]. The gold interconnects, which feature microcracks that enable the flexibility, are thermally evaporated through a stencil and the electrodes are coated through screen printing [1]. These microcracks are only 100nm thick and enable electric current to flow through them. This precise thinness enables the substrate to remain flexible, yet still be electrically conductive. At the heart of the e-Dura, the nano-gold is an amazing advancement that will have much potential in the field of neuroprosthetics and throughout nanotechnology and engineering.

To treat paralysis, the e-Dura is placed on the spinal cord, underneath the dura mater, and transmits electrical impulses and neurotrasmitters. While the particular application that the laboratory (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) researched was in rehabilitating paralyzed rats to walk again, there are many other potential implications of the technology such as treating neurological traumas or diseases, or increasing neurological function in already functioning areas [1]

 e-Dura neuroprosthetic components: a silicon substrate, gold interconnects, electrodes coated in platinum-silicon composite, and a fluidic microchannel [1].

References

  1. Minev IR, Musienko P, Hirsch A, Barraud Q, Wenger N, Moraud EM, Gandar J, Capogrosso M, Milekovic T, Asboth L, et al. Electronic dura mater for long-term multimodal neural interfaces. Science [Internet]. 2015 ;347(6218):159 - 163. Available from: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.1260318
  2. Leuthardt EC, L. Jarod R, Ray WZ. Neuroprosthetics: Linking the human nervous system to computers is providing unprecedented control of artificial limbs and restoring lost sensory function. [Internet]. 2014 . Available from: www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/41324/title/Neuroprosthetics/

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The e-Dura meshes existing technology of neural implants that imitate the function of living tissue with newly developed dura mater-mimicking elasticity. This elasticity minimizes stress on the spinal cord while maintaining full function; namely, the ability to deliver neurotransmitters and send electrical impulses through the nervous system. The enhancement of this particular implant is that it does not harm the body, which has been a major issue in the field of neuroprosthetics. 

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Until now, neuroprosthetics have been rigid and caused damage to the tissue they have been implanted upon. The e-Dura’s flexibility is akin to that of real tissue, which will enable it to move without causing harm to the body. Thus it will have all the benefits of a traditional implant without the associated drawbacks.  The e-Dura is a promising, long-term solution to paralysis. Its potential is also huge, as the technology could be used for pain management or treating other mental diseases and ailments [1].

References

  1. Minev IR, Musienko P, Hirsch A, Barraud Q, Wenger N, Moraud EM, Gandar J, Capogrosso M, Milekovic T, Asboth L, et al. Electronic dura mater for long-term multimodal neural interfaces. Science [Internet]. 2015 ;347(6218):159 - 163. Available from: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.1260318

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The risks of neuroprosthetics are that, while enabling the ability to send neural impulses and regain movement in body parts that were previously paralyzed, they could do more harm than good by damaging the tissue they are implanted upon [1]. That risk is still present, but to a much smaller extent, with the e-Dura. Plans to evaluate these risks, through clinical human testing, are in development. 

References

  1. Citekey <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1586%2Fern.09.12" target="pmc_ext">10.1586/ern.09.12</a> not found

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