Researchers develop biodegradable nerve stimulation device


According to John A. Rogers, who is the co-senior author of this study as well as a pioneer in bio-integrated technologies said that this new device gives active, treatments in a programmable format. "This approach to therapy allows one to think about options that go beyond drugs and chemistry".

According to the Foundation of Peripheral Neuropathy, damage to the peripheral nerves, which run from the brain and spinal cord to the arms, hands, legs, and feet, can cause numbness and pain in certain areas of the body.

Experts have been seeking ways to treat the condition, but few treatments have had any dramatic impact.

Researchers at Northwestern University and Washington University School of Medicine have developed an implant no larger than a dime and as thin as a sheet of paper that uses pulses of electricity to stimulate the regeneration of nerves. After fitting the implant, electrical pulses were administered to the damaged nerves.

"With this device, we've shown that electrical stimulation given on a scheduled basis can further enhance nerve recovery".

The biodegradable device is created to dissolve away and be completely absorbed into the body after two weeks.

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"We know that electrical stimulation during surgery helps, but once the surgery is over, the window for intervening is closed", said co-senior author Wilson "Zack" Ray, MD, an associate professor of neurosurgery, of biomedical engineering and of orthopedic surgery at Washington University. "In the case reported here, we built bioresorbable electronic devices that support unique function relevant to recovery from damage to a peripheral nerve, via electrical stimulation at select time points during the healing process".

Over the past eight years, Rogers and his lab have developed a complete collection of electronic materials, device designs and manufacturing techniques for biodegradable devices with a broad range of options that offer the potential to address unmet medical needs. In a study published in the journal, Nature Medicine, the researchers explain that the implant is powered and controlled wirelessly via an external transmitter located outside of the body. The medicine that they have developed is said to be the first example of bioelectronics medicine which is an implantable biodegradable wireless device.

Over six days, the devices provided one hour per day of electrical stimulation, or none at all, monitoring recovery for 10 weeks. The scientists found no adverse effects relating to the device or its reabsorption. The researchers were able to control the number of days the device functioned before being absorbed into the body by varying the composition and thickness of the materials.

"Before we did this study, we weren't sure that longer stimulation would make a difference, and now that we know it does we can start trying to find the ideal time frame to maximize recovery", Ray said. New versions can provide electrical pulses for weeks before degrading. The ability of the device to degrade in the body takes the place of a second surgery to remove a non-biodegradable device, thereby eliminating additional risk to the patient.

This article has been republished from materials provided by Northwestern University.

Reference: Koo, J., MacEwan, M. R., Kang, S. -K., Won, S. M., Stephen, M., Gamble, P., ... Wireless bioresorbable electronic system enables sustained nonpharmacological neuroregenerative therapy.