• US stock market daily report (June 12, 2015, Friday)

    The e-Dura implant developed by scientists in Switzerland, is a thin flexible implant that can be applied directly to the surface of the spinal cord to administer electrical and chemical stimulation. The implant is made from a silicon substrate embedded with electrodes. The device replicates the properties of soft living tissue around the spinal cord allowing it to remain in place with no discomfort to the patient.

    Professor Stephanie Lacour, co-author of the study at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne said, "By combining this electro-chemical stimulation of the spinal cord tissue we then tested whether we could then restore locomotion in the hind limbs. And this is what we found. Indeed we can - using this technology - we were able over weeks of time to stimulate the spinal cord in spinal cord-injured animals and allow then to walk."

    A soft, stretchy prototype device was designed and built on site with gold electric conducting tracks covering the silicon substrate and the electrodes are made from a composite of silicon and platinum microbeads. The tiny microchannel enables the delivery of drugs and the neurotransmitters that reanimate the nerve cells beneath the injured tissue.

    A problem with the surface implant in humans is that, by applying them directly to the spinal cord, any movement or stretching of the nerve tissues would cause the implant to rub, with repeated friction leading to inflammation, build-up of scar tissue and ultimately, rejection of the implant.

    Lacour said, "To define whether or not the softness of the mechanical compliance of the device mattered in terms of its long-term integration with the tissue. Because one important aspect of our studies is that we design the implant so that it could, one day, be used in a therapeutical context. So we wanted an implant that could stay for quite some time in vivo without inducing any detrimental effect. And so the first question we asked was: is soft making a difference?"

    The elastic e-Dura prototype can be bent and deformed almost exactly like the living tissue that surrounds it and was implanted beneath the dura mater, directly onto the spinal cord. Even after two months, when the prototype was implanted into rats it caused neither damage nor rejection.

    Lacour said, "We implanted the device subdurally; so just below the natural skin that protects the spinal cord, so that we could be at the very surface of the spinal cord. And then we used this to stimulate electrically, and also chemically. And we added to the implant a very small conduit, like a micro channel where we could deliver also drugs."

    A unique property of the e-Dura is the embedded metallic electrodes that can be bent and stretched without breaking, per Lacour. She added that, "The innovation in e-Dura is that the metallic track can also withstand a very large deformation. So we have stretchable metal integrated in e-Dura."

    The team of scientists remains confident that the technology can be successfully implanted without rejection. During their testing, the spinal cord of the paralyzed rat is currently stimulated from an external source, with no correlation between the its brain and spine.

    The next hurdle to overcome, per Lacour, "There's no link at the moment between the brain; so the motor command between the brain and the actual stimulation pattern on the spinal cord. So we now also have to find a way to link the two so that the person will think about moving and, indeed, the stimulation will be synchronized."

    Contributed by Millennium Traders
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