Scientists have developed a flexible spinal implant called e-dura that can carry both electrical and chemical signals without damaging the spine. This is a breakthrough discovery since, so far, the implants that were tested caused injuries to the spine.

E-dura is named so after the dura mater, a protective sheath that forms the outermost layer of the spinal cord and protects the central nervous system. It extends upward to protect the brain as well. Earlier version of the implant would not be compatible with the dura mater and would cause inflammation in it.

E-dura has not been tested on humans, so far, but it is very likely to help patients of paralysis in the near future. The e-dura implant is placed directly underneath the dura mater. It is made of soft silicone, stretchable gold wires, and rubbery electrodes flecked with platinum. It also has a micro channel through which the researchers injected drugs.

The mice on whom e-dura was tested were fitted with the plant for months in some cases, indicating that the implant might work for paralysis patients for their long-term use. Since the dura mater extends to the brain, it is possible that this technology can help in developing brain implants as well. So far, the implant has been used to carry signals for movement, but it can carry all chemical and electrical signals.

There are many applications that this technology could be applied to, such as to control neural pain, epileptic seizures, and to administer drugs. This would likely present a boom in opportunities in bio-engineering and related fields in the coming years.

Grégoire Courtine, who developed e-dura along with Stéphanie Lacour, has earlier shown that these implants can make paralysed mice walk again. This was done by sending patterns of electrical shocks to the spinal cord using electrodes connected to the spine. E-dura more closely resembles human tissue than any other implant material used until now.

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