The new device developed by researchers can operate for two weeks in the body before dissolving without a trace
Nerve regeneration is slow process in case of peripheral nerve injury. It can result into numbness or tingling in hands, arms or legs. Researchers from Northwestern University and the Washington University School of Medicine reported a novel biodegradable implant designed to electrically stimulate damaged nerves, speeding up the healing process, before naturally dissolving into the body. The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine in October 2018.
The breakthrough device wraps around a damaged nerve and deliver programmed bursts of electrical stimulation. The prototype under development is about size of a dime and it is able to operate wirelessly for up to two weeks before naturally dissolving into the body. As a part of the study, experiments were conducted in rats, which reported that device accelerated nerve signaling and muscle mass recovery with no adverse effects.
The absorbable nature of the electrical stimulation device eliminates the need for secondary, and dangerous, implant removal surgeries, opens up a significant array of broad uses beyond just peripheral nerve stimulation. Further research is required to better understand optimal duration of stimulation. The device has not been tested in humans, so further research is still required before it could appear in broad clinical uses, but the concept of a temporary, biodegradable implant that can naturally dissolve into the body. As well as offering a novel approach to treating peripheral nerve damage, it is suggested the technology could be adapted to become a temporary pacemaker or an electrical interface with the spinal cord.