Spinal Implants Prevent Atrophy

This has been one ofthose terribly obvious technological objectives that have been waiting forminiaturization to reach the right threshold. Everyone knows how to apply the tech, but one needed to wait for it tobe small enough.  Effectively we arethere now and it will quickly get better.

This means two thingsFirst, muscle groups need no longer be allowed to atrophy.  The part of the body cut of from normal nervefunction can be exercised to a high state of performance which supports generalcardio vascular health for the whole body. The weakness is restricted to the damaged part of the nerve itself.

Secondly, the cut ofdamaged portion will also receive signals and will be able to participate inany future restoration protocol.  Recentresearch suggests that this may no longer out of sight.  Neurological restoration is one of the majorproblems of medicine and one of the main cost drags on medical care.  Ending the cost of long term support is aprimary financial goal for health care and it can only be done by a viablecure.

So this is still amechanical patch but is is an important one.

NOVEMBER 22, 2010

Engineers have developed a new type ofmicrochip muscle stimulator implant that will enable people with paraplegia toexercise their paralysed leg muscles. It is the first timethat researchers have developed a device of this kind thatis small enough to be implanted into the spinal canal andincorporates the electrodes and muscle stimulator in one unit. The implant isthe size of a child's fingernail. There have been other devices that useelectrodes in the spinal canal but the muscle stimulators are implanted in theabdomen in the front.

The Engineering and PhysicalSciences Research Council (EPSRC) project is being led by Professor AndreasDemosthenous from University College London.It includes engineers from Freiburg University and the Tyndall Institute in Cork.

"The work has the potential to stimulate more muscle groups than iscurrently possible with existing technology because a number of these devicescan be implanted into the spinal canal", said Professor AndreasDemosthenous. "Stimulation of more muscle groups means users can performenough movement to carry out controlled exercise such as cycling orrowing."

The devices could also be used for a wide range of restorative functions suchas stimulating bladder muscles to help overcome incontinence and stimulatingnerves to improve bowel capacity and suppress spasms. 

The research team has overcome previous limitations by micro-packagingeverything into one tiny unit. Latest laser processing technology has been usedto cut tiny electrodes from platinum foil. These are then folded into a 3Dshape (which looks like the pages of a book, earning the device the name of theActive Book). The pages close in around the nerve roots. They are micro-weldedto a silicon chip which is hermetically sealed to protect against waterpenetration, which can lead to corrosion of the electronics

The University College London is doing pioneering workwith prosthetics They are attaching directly to the bone andare working to mind controlled prosthetics.

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