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How Flexible Implants Make Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have developed implants to restore movement in rats with a broken spinal cord.

Source: NCCR

Led by Stéphanie Lacour who holds the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Neuroprosthetic Technology at the School of Engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, a Swiss team has developed an implant that might change the lives of thousands of paralyzed people in the world.

In the past, the researchers came up with a devise that made it possible that rats with a damaged spinal cord were able to walk again via electrical stimulation. The problem was that such an implant wouldn’t be feasible in the every day life, since the wire electrodes were too bulky and hard to position accurately. Also, implants that were directly connected to the spiral cord damaged the tissue over time.

In cooperation with the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research Robotics (NCCR), the researchers engineered a new implant they called e-dura which is flexible enough to avoid these problems.

In a paper published in Science, they described how the implant that was placed beneath the dura mater was used in rats for months without issues. After two weeks of training the rats were able to walk again. According to the press release, the researchers are now entering into clinical trials to develop the device to market.




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