The aim of the project is to design and build a prototype of an active implant that works directly at the spinal cord level, focusing on the restoration of the transmission of signals in the injured spinal cord. The device will combine high-resolution sensing of magnetic fields produced by the neuron’s activity plus functional stimulation electrodes with enhanced adhesion. The final prototype will act as a bi-directional bypass working at room temperature, something not possible using current technology. The research on magnetoresistive materials will enable the detection of ultra-small magnetic fields. This, when combined with the investigation on biocompatibility of the materials, will produce the necessary knowledge to make a technological leap.
Although in its early stages, the project has already delivered a first prototype of an artificial neuron that allows the generation of magnetic fields similar to those generated by neural tissue. The first generation of the magnetic sensors and nanostructured electrodes have been designed and are ready to be implanted in in-vitro neuronal cultures. Next the biocompatibility tests will be followed by the optimisation of the design, then implantation in a pair of spinal explants, enabling the final model of the bypass prototype.