Flexible spinal implant heals paralysis in rats

January 12, 2015 3:00 PM

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When electrical signals leave the brain on their way to the body’s extremities, they are all funneled through a bottleneck in the actual neck. Even further down the spine, when a portion of our nervous commands have already peeled off toward their individual destinations, the nervous system has a severe lack of redundancy; sustain damage to your spine, and you lose access to whole fractions of your body. That’s why the body keeps the spine pretty well protected — it’s on your back, for one, studded with bone, flanked by thick slabs of back muscle, and sheathed in a protective sleeve called the dura mater (which also extends upward to help protect the brain).

These protections, which make so much sense from an evolutionary perspective, tend to make life more difficult for doctors and biomedical engineers, however, and recent successes granting movement to paralyzed rats were undercut by negative side-effects. Now, thanks to a truly next-generation spinal...

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