Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne, have developed the e-Dura-a tiny skinlike device that attaches directly to damaged spinal cords.
“The purpose of the neuro-prosthesis is to excite the neurons that are on the spinal cord below the site of the injury and activate them, just like if they were receiving information from the brain,” says Stéphanie Lacour, a professor at the institute.
The e-Dura is named after “Dura mater”-the protective skin around the spinal cord. To insert the device, the researchers made a small incision in the back of the rats, slipping it next to the cord itself, then wiring it out. The project has answered important questions about attaching something inanimate to something as sensitive as a spinal cord. At the moment, the spinal cord can be stimulated artificially, but not from the signals of the brain.
Lacour also wants to see how the implant could be used in other parts of the nervous system that’ve been damaged, like the brain itself.