Is a Spinal Implant the Medical Breakthrough that will End Paralysis?

Each year, approximately 12,500 people suffer spinal cord damage as a result of a fall, sports injury, car accident or another grave trauma. That leaves almost 300,000 individuals in the U.S. alone living with some form of disability or paralysis, according to theNational Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. Many researchers focus on stimulating regrowth of the damaged area with hopes of triggering the body to heal itself. A recent medical breakthrough is using a different approach to mend the central nervous system.

The e-Dura Implant

Instead of trying to stimulate regrowth, researchers in France are developing medical equipment that will replace the damaged cord and restore function. The e-Dura implant is a prosthetic ribbon designed to work like the spinal cord.

The spinal cord is really just a flexible tube that contains bundles of sensory and motor neurons able to transmit messages from the brain to various systems throughout the body. Everything from breathing to bladder control relies on this communication network to function properly.

This medical research from Europe involves implanting a synthetic cord to reestablish the communication between the brain and body, ending paralysis. The device consists of soft tubing embedded with electrodes able to do the job of neurons. The developers believe the flexibility of this medical device will keep the body from rejecting the implant.

Ongoing Clinical Studies

To date, e-Dura testing is limited to rats, but the company hopes to move to human trials soon. The current animal studies prove the medical device works and may last up to 10 years in humans. The design of the device mimics living tissue, so it is comfortable and well tolerated.

Spinal Cord Research

The e-Dura implant is a simple answer to a complex problem. Other research avenues involve more intricate methods to promote healing such as stem cell transplants and local spine cooling. Even the engineered approaches like functional electrical stimulation lack the sophistication of this flexible implant.

Is e-Dura a cure for paralysis? Time will tell, but the data looks promising. The spine is really just a biological cabling system, not that different than what you see in computers or other electrical equipment. These researchers are offering a mechanical way to fix the cord and restore function. It is a therapeutic approach that offers hope to those who suffer from a spinal injury.