Paraplegics may soon find it easier to exercise their leg muscles through activities such as cycling and rowing, thanks to a tiny microchip implanted in the spinal canal.
Dubbed the Active Book because of its booklike appearance, the microchip combines electrodes and a muscle stimulator in one unit the size of a child’s fingernail.
Although this is not the first time electrodes and stimulators have been implanted in paraplegics, this latest device is the first to combine the electrodes and muscle stimulator in one unit, so that more nerves can be stimulated and better function achieved.
A team of engineers from University College London, as well as Freiburg University and the Tyndall Institute in Ireland, used laser processing technology to cut tiny electrodes from platinum foil. The electrodes were folded into a 3D shape resembling a book, and the “pages” were closed in around the nerve roots and micro-welded to a hermetically sealed silicon chip.