Researchers at Northwestern University in conjunction with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a medical implant that is bioresorbable and wireless that can speed neuroregeneration and healing of damaged nerves. The device itself is about the size of a dime and is as thick as a sheet of paper. Powered by an external wireless transmitter similar to a cellphone-charging mat, it can operate for two weeks before being reabsorbed into the body.
From the northwestern University article "The scientists envision that such transient engineered technologies one day could complement or replace pharmaceutical treatments for a variety of medical conditions in humans. This type of technology, which the researchers refer to as a bioresorbable electronic medicine,' provides therapy and treatment over a clinically relevant period of time and directly at the site where it’s needed, thereby reducing side effects or risks associated with conventional, permanent implants".
Current methods to improve neural damage recovery involve stimulating the nerves during surgery. The implantable device will allow for continuous therapy, for a set period, to speed and enhance the healing process. “We know that electrical stimulation during surgery helps, but once the surgery is over, the window for intervening is closed,” said Dr. Wilson “Zack” Ray, an associate professor of neurosurgery, of biomedical engineering and of orthopedic surgery at Washington University. “With this device, we’ve shown that electrical stimulation given on a scheduled basis can further enhance nerve recovery.” Ray, who co-authored the research which was published in the journal Nature Medicine on Oct. 8 stated “Before we did this study, we weren’t sure that longer stimulation would make a difference, and now that we know it does, we can start trying to find the ideal time frame to maximize recovery.”
As of now, the implant has only been tested on rats, but human trials are in the works.
Read more about the neuroregenerative bioresorbable medical device at Northwestern University.