Next-generation implants will be non-invasive

It can be implanted in a patient’s blood vessel rather than inside the brain.

Existing implants are thinner, more flexible, and more elastic. These properties make the neuroprosthetic devices more suitable to the mechanical properties of brain tissue.

However, these properties also make the implants more fragile and less durable. Also, removing these implants is quite tricky or, let’s say, impossible as it generally requires invasive surgery.

EPFL engineers have taken a step towards biodegradable and non-invasive implants. They have developed a neural interface that disappears harmlessly in the body after several months and allows natural tissue to grow back.

Their new generation implants are made of polymers that deteriorate naturally after several months. It can be used in both medium and long-term applications such as monitoring epileptic activity or supporting neurorehabilitation after an injury.

Diego Ghezzi, a professor at EPFL’s School of Engineering and holder of the Medtronic Chair in Neuroengineering, said, “Our implant eliminates the need for invasive surgery, as it can be implanted in a patient’s blood vessel.”

Adele Fanelli, a Ph.D. student at Ghezzi’s lab, said, “We modeled our implant after stents, which are used to widen arteries and veins. The surgical procedure has become fairly routine, and the recovery time is short.”

“Because it’s made out of polymers rather than metal, it tends not to provoke a strong inflammatory reaction.”

Ghezzi said“Our research shows it’s possible to develop minimally invasive neuroprostheses that interact with the surrounding tissue. This opens up new possibilities for applications in neurotechnology and expands the range of patients who can benefit from them.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Adele Fanelli et al. Transient Neurovascular Interface for Minimally Invasive Neural Recording and Stimulation. DOI: 10.1002/admt.202100176
  2. L. Ferlauto, P. Vagni, A. Fanelli, E.G. Zollinger, K. Monsorno, R.C. Paolicelli & D. Ghezzi (2021) “All-polymeric transient neural probe for prolonged in-vivo electrophysiological recordings” Biomaterials 274, 120889. DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120889

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