What if it was possible to activate nerves in the spinal cord that were once paralyzed?
A new wireless device could bring that dream closer to a reality for spinal cord injury victims.
Mesut Sahin, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and Boston University’s Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE, MSE) have been working for two years with grant funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to develop a novel micro-stimulator appropriately named FLAMES which stands for floating light activated micro-electrical stimulators.
BU ECE post-doctoral associate, Dr. David S. Freedman (PhD ’10); BU Biomedical Engineering student, Elif Cevik (PhD ’13); and Ph.D. student, Ammar Abdo of NJIT, have also played significant roles in the project.
“Through microfabrication we’ve developed a robust device that can be implanted in the spinal cord and activated wirelessly,” said Freedman, who has conducted much of his research at BU’s Optoelectronic Processing Facility.
Ultimately, their technology could enable paralyzed muscles to be used again.
“A key benefit is that since our device is wireless, the connections can’t deteriorate over time. Plus, the implant causes minimal reaction in the tissue which is a common problem with similar wired devices,” Sahin told NJIT.
Though other devices that stimulate the spinal cord are being developed, FLAMES is the only one that is not wired which gives it a significant advantage for use in the fragile spinal cord.
“Designing, making, and testing FLAMES has been rewarding knowing that it may help improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries,” said Freedman.
-Samantha Gordon (COM ’12) and Rachel Harrington