Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Medical implants: the inside story

16.01.2008
Patients suffering from conditions such as stroke, blindness, deafness, incontinence, glaucoma or hydrocephalus will be the first to benefit from a range of new technologies and implantable medical devices developed by a pioneering European consortium of researchers, surgeons and technology companies.

Half a century ago, Swedish scientists invented the first implantable heart pacemaker, demonstrating the potential of treating medical conditions by placing electronic devices within the human body. Now a consortium of 27 universities, research centres, hospitals, technology companies and manufacturers is developing new micro-technologies for implantable medical devices of the future.

The EU’s Healthy Aims project includes partners from seven EU countries, Switzerland and Israel, all of whom were already members of a medical devices industry association. “We started with a very strong group of people,” recalls Diana Hodgins of European Technology for Business Ltd, the project coordinator. “We looked at the clinical needs and the end manufacturers’ requirements and married those up to the technologies that we had available.”

In its four years, the project has pioneered three powered implants and three diagnostic devices.

Six products
A common consequence of a stroke is that patients lose control of an arm and are unable to release their grip. In functional electrical stimulation (FES), muscles are activated by signals from an implant. “Our stimulator extends the wrist, so the hand is in the right position, and then opens the fingers and thumb ready for an object to be grasped,” Hodgins explains.

“The first ones have been implanted and we’ve had some excellent results.” The technology is now being extended to tackle incontinence by helping patients control their bladder and bowel sphincter muscles.

A second product restores limited vision in certain types of blindness. A camera chip integrated into a pair of glasses transmits data to an array of electrodes inside the eyeball which stimulate retinal nerve cells. The image has 231 points which is a major achievement for patients with no sight at all. Clinical trials are already underway.

Similar technologies are being used in a cochlear implant to restore hearing. Compared to existing devices, the implant will improve voice recognition in noisy environments by having more stimulation sites and placing them in the inner cochlea, sending electrical impulses directly to the brain.

Yet another implant will measure the pressure inside the brain cavity, a crucial diagnostic for sufferers of hydrocephalus where an excess of fluid can damage the brain.

Three diagnostic tools are also emerging from the Healthy Aims project. The glaucoma sensor, a contact lens incorporating a ‘strain gauge’ to monitor the pressure within the eyeball, is already being trialled with patients. A catheter for measuring the pressure inside the bladder will help diagnose cases of incontinence. And an activity monitor, spun-off from the FES work, will keep track of a person’s physical activity over a period of time, in sport as well as in medicine.

All these products share a small number of core micro-technologies, developed within the project, that will give the European medical devices industry a toolkit of techniques for the future.

Healthy results
The first is wireless communication. All the implants and sensors transmit and receive data without any connecting wires. Although a single solution for all the devices has not proved practicable, the project has developed a technology (based on the ‘medical implants communications service’, or MICS, standard) that can transmit radio waves from an implant to a receiver worn on the body.

“While it wasn’t suitable for all the applications, it’s the ideal solution for FES,” says Hodgins. “We now have a working MICS system that can be sold anywhere in the world.”

The partners have developed arrays of tiny microelectrodes to stimulate nerves or muscles and the connectors to join them to supporting electronics. “Platinum electrodes are the most common for implantable devices and the most difficult to make and join to in an automated process. We’ve learned a great deal and we are now sharing that with other projects,” says Hodgins.

Implants have to last for the life of the patient. That means that they must be completely enclosed by materials that will not degrade by long exposure to body fluids. The team has come up with two new materials, a modified silicone and diamond-like coating (DLC), both of which look very promising.

Finally, implants need a source of power. At present, the only makers of implantable batteries are in the USA and they do not sell their technology to competitors. Now, thanks to Healthy Aims, two new European prototypes are moving towards clinical trials: a rechargeable battery, suitable for powering the FES and cochlear implants, and a fuel cell powered by the body’s own glucose which could run a heart pacemaker for ten years.

With several products only two to four years from certification, and the MICS system and activity monitor even sooner, the project has given a huge boost not just to the partners but to the European medical devices sector as a whole.

“We’ve actually surprised the Americans,” says Hodgins who regularly receives invitations to present the work of the consortium in international conferences and journals.

“They’re coming to us and saying ‘please tell us what you’re up to’. On all of these things, we’re leading the world. People will talk about this project for a long time to come.”

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89278

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Surgery involving ultrasound energy found to treat high blood pressure
24.05.2018 | Queen Mary University of London

nachricht XXL computed tomography: a new dimension in X-ray analysis
17.05.2018 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>