Swiss scientists may solve paralysis with an implant

Science stories don’t get picked up here as often as gadgets, but we love it all the same, and one thing we love is hearing about science that can make people better, with scientists in Switzerland doing just that.

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (or the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne if you prefer the local tongue) are working on something that could bring movement back to people who suffer from paralysis if their research is anything to go on.

A team at the organisation has managed to create a new implant made from flexible silicon covered with gold electric tracks, with electrodes made from silicon and platinum, all of which works at the moment to deliver electrical impulses from the brain to the legs of a paralysed animal, allowing it to walk again.

The scientists tested the implant on paralysed rats, installing the implant below the protective layer of the nervous system called the “dura mater”, and after a few weeks of training, the paralysed rat was able to walk, without the body trying to reject the implant, which we’re told is something that can happen, and frequently does, as the implants that have been previously tested rub against tissue causing inflammation and eventual rejection by the body.

As a result of how this works, the scientists have called the implant an “e-Dura” because it sits this close to the nervous system, and plugs directly into the spinal cord.

“Our e-Dura implant can remain for a long period of time on the spinal cord or the cortex, precisely because it has the same mechanical properties as the dura mater itself,” said Stéphanie Lacour, one of the professors working on the project.

“This opens up new therapeutic possibilities for patients suffering from neurological trauma or disorders, particularly individuals who have become paralysed following spinal cord injury.”

We can’t explain it better than the scientists working on the project, so have included a video below where they show off the concept and demonstrate what it can do, but from where we sit, it is very, very impressive.

The e-Dura implant isn’t likely to cure paralysis overnight, but the team of scientists is looking to eventual clinical trials in humans, which can only be good news for the treatment of paralysis, and other spinal cord related injuries.