Michael Sealy holds examples of implants that can be made using the 3-D printers in the College of Engineering's NEAT lab. Sealy, an assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, is designing magnesium-based implants – screws, pins, plates – that degrade in the body over time. This would eliminate the need for follow-up surgeries to remove the implants and mitigate the aches that permanent implants can cause. October 2, 2018. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication
We all know that peripheral nerves tend to recover, thus healing in wounds of small size and shallow penetration. However, electrical stimulation of a certain format can significantly accelerate this process, which has previously been repeatedly proved by specialists. And today, experts from Northeastern University, together with colleagues from Washington University, presented their new development, which is a special biodegradable implant that is introduced into the zone of damaged nerves, which, using sequential electrical stimulation, can accelerate the process of their recovery.
In this case, the prototype is an absolutely safe device made of soft and flexible materials, which, after two weeks of operation, quietly dissolve in the body without causing any side effects. Preliminary tests on experimental mice have shown that this implant really allows you to quickly and efficiently repair damaged peripheral nerves, implementing certain patterns of electrical stimulation.
At the same time, the device operates wirelessly, absolutely not interfering with the body or the user. Now, this prototype will begin its test on volunteers, and scientists suggest that increasing the duration of sessions of electrical stimulation can have an even more beneficial effect on nerve repair – however, this hypothesis is still being worked out. Still, nerve repair is a rather complicated undertaking, which one way or another should be connected with preliminary studies.
In any case, experts say that their biodegradable implant, the size of a small penny, realizes really high efficiency of its work – in particular, in eliminating damage to nerves associated with burns. It is worth noting, however, that so far the prototype remains a prototype and in its subsequent iterations, experts will probably want to update the design or material element of its work.