Soft brain implant helps paralyzed rats walk again

soft neural implant

Flexible neural implants like this one deliver electrical and chemical stimulation to damaged tissue. In a new study, such implants helped paralyzed rats walk again.

© EPFL 2015

Neural implants are going soft.

Scientists have made a soft, flexible electrical implant that mimics the elasticity of the brain and spine’s protective tissue. When implanted into paralyzed rats, the ribbonlike device, which delivered electrical and chemical stimulation to the brain and spine, helped the animals walk again. Unlike previous implants, which are rigid, the new flexible one moved with the animals, keeping the stimulation attached to their neural tissue. The implants also did not trigger an immune response, the team reports in the Jan. 9 Science.

The results could have implications for long-term treatment of paralysis and certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s, in humans. For more on treating paralysis, read SN‘s “Mind to motion” feature.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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