A flexible spinal implant to monitor the brain?
Traditionally, spinal implants have been rigid, causing friction and inflammation; the body frequently rejects these implants because of this lack of biocompatibility.
Not so for the new flexible, stretchy e-Dura implant developed by French scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The implant is a major accomplishment, representing a convergence of medicine, material sciences, microelectronics, neuroscience, and computer science/machine learning.
The implant is not only flexible to interact seamlessly with the spine, but it can also actually monitor electrical impulses from the brain in real-time and react accordingly. In other words, the implant is capable of predicting precise motor movements before they happen!
In lab studies with paralyzed rats, the research team found that the implant enabled the rats to walk again within a few weeks of training.
If surface implants with embedded flexible electronics prove successful, there are likely numerous use cases for them, including in pain management, Parkinson's treatment, and seizure detection/treatment.
This is another exciting example of medicine and software coming together to produce huge wins.