Stem cells and electronics combined into a new type of neural implant

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a new type of neural implant that combines

stem cells and electronics. It will help amputees and patients with paralysis. The revolutionary biohybrid device can integrate with body tissues.

The key components of the device areinduced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). These are adult human cells (usually skin or blood) that are reprogrammed in the laboratory to look like embryonic stem cells. Then they develop into cells of any other type. Researchers have used iPS to create myocytes, the building blocks of skeletal muscle, and have been used for the first time in a living organism.

Cells arranged in a grid on arraysmicroelectrodes; so thin that they are attached to the end of the nerve. Thus, a layer of myocytes appeared, which was located between the electrodes of the device and living tissue. The researchers then implanted the biohybrid device into rats for testing. They attached the caged side of the device to severed ulnar and median nerves on the animals' front legs. These nerves were chosen because they are similar to injuries to the nerves of the human upper extremities and are associated with loss of fine motor skills and sensory functions.

Compared to the control group, the deviceintegrated into the body of the rat and prevented the formation of scar tissue. In addition, cells derived from iPSCs survived for four weeks after implantation. This is the first time cells have survived in a long-term experiment of this kind.