Miniaturised nerve-stimulating biomedical implants

prototype-electroceuticals-1000With the global burden of disease growing, the search for treatments that are more cost and time effective has become increasingly important. Some researchers believe that miniaturised injectable ‘electroceuticals’ may be the answer, potentially providing treatment for conditions such as epilepsy, depression and arthritis through electrical stimulation of nerves deep inside the body.

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a 6.5mm programmable chip that effectively delivers this electrical stimulation. About the size of a grain of rice, the device relies on a piezoelectric receiver which converts ultrasound signals transmitted from outside the body into electricity to energise two stimulating electrodes. This process allows signals to be received by the implant through more than 10cm of tissue, permitting a high degree of control over the delivery of nerve stimulation regardless of position in the body.

The device is yet to be trialled in patients, and future research focusses on further miniaturisation to modify the implant to be injectable, an improvement on the current minimally invasive implantation procedure. If successful, this would eliminate the need for surgical insertion and could give rise to a revolutionary form of medical treatment that is more accessible with potentially less risk than current options.

Read more: IEEE Spectrum / Stanford / IEEE J of Solid-State Circuits

Image: Jayant Charthad/Stanford University

This story is taken from the 13 April 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.