Engineers Link Computers to Brains Using 3D Implants

October 1, 2020 14:14:15

Up until now, we have only seen scientists linking the brain to a monitor in sci-fi movies where the evil scientist wants to manipulate the subject’s brain or fry it to pudding. This is now a near-reality after a team of neuroscientists and engineers from the St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Technische Universität Dresden in Germany and University of Sheffield in the UK used the power of 3D printing to improve neural implant technology. The study has been published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

The team was led by Professor Pavel Musienko from St. Petersburg and Professor Ivan Minev, from the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield. The two developed a neural implant prototype that can be utilized in the development of treatments for issues that plague the nervous system.

The neural implant has previously been utilized in the stimulation of spinal cords of animal models suffering from spinal cord injuries. Now they can also be used to create new treatments for humans who suffer from paralysis. The study shows how the implant fits on the brain’s surface, the peripheral muscles and nerves and the spinal cord. This has opened up a slew of possibilities of its implementation in other neurological disorders.

For many researchers in the worlds of technology, science and medicine, linking the brain through the use of a neural interface to a computer is a goal they would like to achieve. Despite the efforts being made to make this a reality, the innovation field is held back by the lengthy development periods and hefty costs that go into building prototypes.

However, the technology shows huge potential in bringing new treatments for injuries that affect the nervous system, all based on a fusion of electronics and biology. The researchers expect the neural implants to sense and issue small electrical impulses to the nervous system and the brain.

Using 3D printing, the team has demonstrated how prototype implants can be made in a cost effective and quicker way, which will accelerate development and research in that area. Additionally, the implants can be modified easily to target a specific problem or area in the nervous system.

Professor Ivan Minev stated that the research which began at Technische Universität, Germany and continued at the University of Sheffield has shown how 3D orienting can be used to create implant prototypes at a cost and speed that had not previously been done while still keeping the standards that are needed to produce a useful tool. The team has also demonstrated how 3D printers can develop implants that can liaise with the nerves and the brain.

Minev adds that in the future, the implant may be modified to fit a clinical need in patients, with it being printed in the OR as the patient is prepared to go under the knife. Industry watchers say such technology could open up immense possibilities for biomed sector players like DarioHealth Corp. (NASDAQ: DRIO).

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