Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a neural implant that could help restore limb function to people who have lost the use of their arms or legs. Combining flexible electronics and human stem cells, the researchers used the device to improve the connection between the brain and paralysed limbs in rats. By sandwiching a layer of muscle cells reprogrammed from stem cells between the electrodes and the living tissue, the device integrated with the host’s body and the formation of scar tissue was prevented. The cells survived on the electrode for the duration of the 28-day experiment, the first time this has been monitored over such a long period. The device has potential for the restoration of function in people who have lost the use of a limb or limbs, and could also be used to control prosthetic limbs by interacting with specific axons responsible for motor control. The researchers are now working to further optimise the devices and improve their scalability. The research was supported in part by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Wellcome, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.

A device named ‘Biohybrid’ may be able to restore function in limbs that are paralyzed.

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