Biodegradable Implant Stimulates Injured Nerves to Speed Up Healing
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine and Northwestern University created an implant to deliver electric impulses to damaged nerves, helping to heal them, and that eventually biodegrades and leaves the body. It’s about the size of a U.S. quarter coin and operates for about two weeks before losing power and breaking up into microscopic bits.
The technology works because electricity for some still poorly understood reasons results in the production of growth-promoting proteins, which help peripheral nerves regenerate.
The device has already been tested on injured lab rats, helping their nerves to regrow and heal faster than control animals, as was just reported in Nature Medicine.
Wilson “Zack” Ray, MD, one of the senior authors of the study, said, “We know that electrical stimulation during surgery helps, but once the surgery is over, the window for intervening is closed. With this device, we’ve shown that electrical stimulation given on a scheduled basis can further enhance nerve recovery.”
Top image: Top left: device before immersion; top right: 10 days after immersion; bottom left: 15 days; bottom right: 25 days