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New implant for the spinal cord

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A recent paper in Science focuses on a newly developed neuroprosthetic device and is jointly published by the teams of Prof. Stéphanie P. Lacour and Prof. G. Courtine. This soft neural implant with the shape of and elasticity of the dura mater, the protective membrane of the brain and the spinal cord, is called electronic dura mater or e-dura.

E-dura can be implanted under the dura, smoothly conforming to the spinal cord tissue, and enables electrical stimulation and local application of chemical substances, as well as recording from the surface of the brain or the spinal cord. This new neuroprosthesis can be considered as a exciting technological progress, which may contribute to the further development and refinement in the field of neuromodulation and electro stimulation.

Prof. S. Lacour holds a Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Neuroprosthetic Technology at the School of Engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Her research focuses on the materials, technology and integration of soft bioelectronic interfaces including artificial skin, ultra-compliant neural electrodes for in vitro platforms as well as in vivo implants.

Prof. G Courtine holds International paraplegic foundation (IRP) chair in spinal cord repair in the Center for Neuroprosthetics at the EPFL and his research focuses to develop new treatment paradigms to restore sensorimotor functions in severely paralyzed people. He is a renowned researcher in the field of spinal cord injury and is also funded by Wings for Life for the following project.

In 2012, G. Courtine already reported findings with an electrochemical neuroprosthesis leading to restored locomotion in Science (“Restoring voluntary control of locomotion after paralyzing spinal cord injury”, van den Brand R et al.). Back then, Wings for Life highlighted this report. Now, he carried on the work using the new soft e-dura. In the new Science publication (“Electronic dura mater for long-term multimodal neural interfaces”, Minev et al.) he shows that in spinal cord injured rats, delivery of continuous electrical stimulation together with administration of serotonin by the e-dura leads to (bodyweight supported) walking ability of rats. The local delivery of the stimulating serotonergic molecules by the e-dura allowed a reduction of the drug volume to one quarter compared to the study of 2012 and minimized the side effects of the substances.

The research on neuromodulation/electronic stimulation after spinal cord injury has developed over the past years and important steps have been taken for SCI patients (link). Hopefully, this technological progress, resulting in this elegant neuroprosthetic device, will also expedite the clinical development in this field.

Please click here for more information on the e-dura.

Science. 2012 Jun 1
Restoring voluntary control of locomotion after paralyzing spinal cord injury.
van den Brand R1, Heutschi J, Barraud Q, DiGiovanna J, Bartholdi K, Huerlimann M, Friedli L, Vollenweider I, Moraud EM, Duis S, Dominici N, Micera S, Musienko P, Courtine G.

Science. 2015 Jan 9
Electronic dura mater for long-term multimodal neural interfaces
Ivan R. Minev, Pavel Musienko, Arthur Hirsch, Quentin Barraud, Nikolaus Wenger, Eduardo Martin Moraud, Jérôme Gandar, Marco Capogrosso, Tomislav Milekovic, Léonie Asboth, Rafael Fajardo Torres, Nicolas Vachicouras, Qihan Liu, Natalia Pavlova, Simone Duis, Alexandre Larmagnac, Janos Vörös, Silvestro Micera, Zhigang Suo, Grégoire Courtine, Stéphanie P. Lacour