Microchip Will Allow Individuals with Paraplegia to Exercise Paralyzed Limbs

Nov 23, 2010
Tagged with:

Engineers have developed a microchip muscle simulator that will enable people with paraplegia to exercise their paralyzed muscles.It is the first device developed that is small enough to be placed into the spinal canal. This new spinal implant incorporates electrodes and the muscle stimulator into one single unit and is the size of a child’s fingernail.

This project is being led by Professor Andreas Demosthenous from University College London and it includes engineers from several other universities. Professor Demosthenous states that “this technology will allow for the stimulation of more muscle groups so that users will be able to perform enough movement to carry out controlled exercise such as cycling and rowing.”

“The work has the potential to stimulate more muscle groups than is currently possible with existing technology because a number of these devices can be implanted into the spinal canal”, said Professor Demosthenous.

This microchip has a wide range of uses beyond stimulating muscle mass to exercise, it can also be used for a variety of restorative functions such as stimulating bladder muscles to help overcome incontinence and stimulating nerves to improve bowel capacity and suppress spasms.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research (EPSRC) and the research team have named this device the “Active Book” due to its resemblance of pages in a book. The latest in laser technology is used to cut tiny electrodes from platinum foil (that resemble the pages) and close in around the nerve roots in the spine. They are micro-welded to a silicon chip which is sealed to protect against corrosion of the electrodes due to water penetration. It is the first piece of technology of its kind that combines the electrodes and muscle stimulator into one small unit so that more nerves can be stimulated and better function achieved.

The active electrode book – the four slots close in around the nerve roots like the pages of a book. Photos courtesy of EPSRC Press Release.

While electrical stimulation of leg muscles have been used for some time, it is usually done by attaching electrodes to the surface of the leg muscles and then connecting the electrodes to a simulator. This has been proven to be time consuming if done every day. As a result, it has been shown that individuals with spinal cord injuries discontinue with this form of treatment despite the clear benefits. This device can make a real difference in the lives and health status of those with paraplegia and helps pave the way for future endeavors which will help restore function to paralyzed muscle. This Active Book microchip will be available for pilot studies sometime next year.

For further information contact:

Dr Demosthenous tel 0207 679 3189

e-mail: a.demosthenous@ee.ucl.ac.uk

Author: Jennifer Green