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Flexible Spinal Implants Put Paralyzed Rats Back on Their Feet

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Researchers have created an ultra-flexible brain implant that may help restore injured spinal cords and nervous systems without inflammation or infection. "E-dura," named after the dura mater protective layer of the brain and spinal cord, is composed of soft silicone, with gold wiring laid down in a special mesh-like layer that allows it to bend and stretch. Implants need to be flexible because the spinal cord is flexible — stiff wiring can cause inflammation or even rejection. The e-dura, however, caused no reaction at all in rats it was implanted in. A more impressive test put e-dura implants in rats that were paralyzed via spinal injury. After a few weeks with e-dura sending electrical and chemical signals along the spinal cord patterned on the rat's brains' own "walk" signal, the rats were on their feet again.

A researcher holds the flexible "e-dura" implant.
A researcher holds the flexible "e-dura" implant.EPFL

It's not that simple in humans, of course, but having implants that are safe and effective in less complex nervous systems is a great place to start when it comes to human-centric treatment. The research, done at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, appeared in the Jan. 9 issue of the Journal Science.

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