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November 24, 2010

Chip implant can stimulate paralysed muscles

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by Janet Harris

The BBC today reported a major advance in technology with the potential to help paraplegics and others with muscle paralysis.

‘Active Book’ is a silicon chip attached to platinum foil electrodes which fold around spinal nerve endings and emit electrical impulses directly to the spine, thereby stimulating muscles.

Under a microscope it looks like the pages of a book are folded over the nerves.

The device, which is designed to exercise paralysed limbs, has an advantage over earlier technology which aimed to achieve the same effect, because of its small size.

Researchers at the University College London have been able to make the chip smaller than a child’s fingernail, helped by advances in the miniaturization of electronics, allowing it to be implanted in the body.

Because several of the tiny chips can be implanted into the spinal canal they can stimulate more muscle groups than existing implants which are much larger meaning that they can only be implanted singly.

Existing implants also require an external power source while the new chips include a muscle stimulator.

Active Book has the potential to produce enough movement to allow users to undertake controlled exercise such as cycling or rowing.

Story link: Chip implant can stimulate paralysed muscles

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